By Andrew Shi, Editor-in-Chief Additional reporting from Rebecca Shesser, Business Manager and Communications Director
At 7:03 A.M. on Wednesday, Oct. 1, students, faculty and staff received an email and text message declaring the campus was in an emergency lock-down while police searched for an armed suspect. A fourth message at 7:54 A.M informed that all classes and activities would be cancelled until further notice as the police searched for a parolee. At 8:14 another message announced that the suspect, Shane Harding, was in police custody on campus.
Harding, 25, of Schodack, NY is a level 3 sex offender who was released on parole in January after serving four of his six year term for raping a 17-old and menacing a police officer in 2008.
On Tuesday, Sept. 30, Troy police received a call that a man was menacing a woman. Harding allegedly pulled a BB pistol on a woman who was giving him a ride at his request. The woman was able to fend him off and Harding fled. Harding then acquired a second gun and forced a female acquaintance to drive to Hancock, MA, where he raped her and then forced her to drive him back to Rennselaer County. There, he forced a male acquaintance to drive him to Saratoga Springs, where he was dropped off at Skidmore College sometime during the night.
According to Director of Campus Safety Dennis Conway, several students reported seeing a suspicious person, but only after Harding was arrested the following morning. Although unconfirmed, Harding reportedly spent the night in the back of a student's unlocked car in Scribner Village.
The following morning, the College was informed by state police that they suspected Harding was on campus, prompting the lock-down. Police arrived at approximately 7 A.M., although his presence was not confirmed until around 7:30 A.M. By 8:15, police had located Harding behind Wilson Chapel, on the edge of North Woods, and were able to place him into custody after a brief scuffle.
Harding was later charged with two counts of felony criminal use of a firearm, and two counts of felony kidnapping, and sent to jail without bail.
While the campus was reopened, the community was asked to avoid North Woods, especially the wooded area around Wilson Chapel, Falstaffs, and North Broadway in an email sent by President Glotzbach. For most of the rest of the day, police could be found around the area, searching for evidence with a canine unit. By Thursday morning North Woods was reopened.
Glotzbach cancelled his Fireside Chat scheduled for Wednesday afternoon to hold an open forum to update the college and review the emergency procedures. While taciturn about details due to the event being an ongoing police investigation, Glotzbach, along with Dean of Student Affairs Rochelle Calhoun and Conway, assured the community that "we are safe."
Conway informed the group that Harding's presence was a mere coincidence. In a separate interview, he said that, "the State Police confirmed with me last night that the suspect does not have any ties to Skidmore." However, The Saratogian reported that Harding requested he be dropped off at Skidmore College specifically, and that police are still investigating the motive behind that request.
At the forum Glotzbach applauded the work of Campus Safety and the law enforcement officers. "I am pleased that our emergency procedures worked as designed, including our interactions with local law enforcement agencies."
Conway echoed Glotzbach's endorsement, saying, "we're pleased that our emergency procedures worked as planned and that the campus community responded appropriately and so helped us deal with this situation."
Skidmore Students also approved of the College's handling of the situation. "I'm so happy to go to a school where I know I will always be safe no matter what happens on campus," said senior Rachel Comp.
Still, as Glotzbach noted, "these situations are complex and we can always learn." Yet, it does seem the College is well prepared for these unfortunate circumstances. In an update provided Thursday morning by the College and published on its site, Glotzbach said, "the most important statement I can make is that our campus and members of our campus community are safe."
More details will be made available pending the police report.