The University Police officers who responded to an assault at the Carpenter Center last Friday disputed this week allegations that police were "dangerously slow" in reaching the scene.
Employees at the Center, one of whom suffered bruises from being battered against a desk, said that they made at least four calls to the police and pressed an alarm button between 4:40 p.m. and 4:55 p.m., at which time they said police arrived.
Lt. Joseph Kenney of the University Police, who was on duty Friday afternoon, said police had received the first notification of the incident at 4:40 p.m. and that he had immediately dispatched all officers in the area to the scene. He said another officer ran directly from police headquarters in Grays Hall.
Sgt. Francis Wigfall said he left Grays on foot as soon as the call was received and was the first officer to arrive, "no more than four minutes" after the call. Wigfall said that the police "were used to dealing with this sort of thing and people often think the time element is longer than it is when they're waiting for help."
Kenney said police records showed officers reaching the scene at 4:42 p.m. and 4:44 p.m., with other Harvard police and Cambridge police responding soon after.
Cynthia von Thuna, assistant to the director of the Carpenter Center, said Tuesday that the police version of the time it took to respond to the call was "a complete lie," and stuck by her earlier allegations that no police had arrived until "at least ten minutes" after they had been called.
Von Thuna said the alleged assailant, whom she described as a former Carpenter Center employee who has a history of mental problems, grabbed her by the neck of her dress and repeatedly pushed her against a desk.
Witnesses said the man also shouted abuse and made violent threats to von Thuna, other women in the office, and maintenance workers who eventually succeeded in subduing him.
Stephen S. J. Hall, vice president for administration, who has jurisdiction over police operations, said yesterday that there was a slight delay, but that he believed that it was not a major problem with most of the people in Carpenter Center.
He said the situation "seemed pretty well under control" and that he was satisfied both with police performance in this specific case and police response procedures in general.
"We're oriented toward fast response; we're not going to tolerate slow response. But I'll tell you it's going to happen sometimes given traffic conditions here, and we're lucky that this time everything turned out OK," Hall said.
Employees said they have asked the University to increase security at Carpenter Center until the assailant is apprehended.
On Monday, the University obtained a civil warrant, permitting the arrest of the alleged assailant for the purpose of possible examination by a court psychiatrist. The warrant is only enforceable in Cambridge and, because the man lives outside of the city, it has not yet been executed.
The decision to pursue civil procedures against the man was made at a meeting Monday in the office of Daniel Steiner '54, counsel to the University. Von Thuna and Capt. George Walsh of the University Police both attended the meeting, but they said the delay charges were not mentioned.
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