Two OCCC students were seen on security video taking and disposing of copies of the April 13 issue of the Pioneer — OCCC’s student newspaper.
Work study student Tori Parks, 24, and student Michelle Caraway, 25, were seen on video taking stacks of newspapers from at least four stands and throwing them into nearby trash cans on Monday, April 23.
The footage was reviewed in the Campus Police Department by Lab Director Ronna Austin and a Pioneer student employee after it was noticed the day before the stands containing the papers were empty.
Austin and the employee identified the two women on the video removing all of the newspapers as the same women who had visited the Pioneer office the day before to make a complaint.
On April 23, Parks and Caraway came to the Pioneer office to lodge a complaint about a story that ran in the April 13 issue of the student newspaper that named both women as part of an incident report.
Austin spoke to the students that day and said “both were visibly upset about the fact that the story had been written and their names had been published.”
Austin said she informed the women of their options, which included a correction if there were factual errors in the story. Both declined.
Police Officer Gordon Nelson later confirmed the police report used to write the story was factual. Nelson was the responding officer to the initial incident, in which Parks said her husband Antwan Leon — also an OCCC work study student — had been making text threats against her and Caraway.
That story can be read here in its entirety.
Timestamps on the videos show the women went around campus disposing of the newspapers after they left the Pioneer office — between 11:27 and 11:58 a.m.
Some of the newspapers were found unsoiled and intact in a campus dumpster, and placed back on the stands.
Austin filed a report with the campus police.
According to an online story published by the Student Press Law Center, Media Relations Coordinator Cordell Jordan said campus police will not be pursuing any criminal charges.
OCCC President Paul Sechrist was asked to make an official statement regarding the incident. In an email response, Sechrist said, “This is a student matter for which it would be inappropriate for me to comment at this time.
“However, I am committed to the general principle of free speech both here on campus and in society as a whole.”
A report also was filed with the SPLC. According to its website at www.splc.org, the center keeps records of all newspaper thefts across the nation.
The SPLC informed the Pioneer they were not interested in pursuing this incident legally, but said the Pioneer could pursue it as an act of student misconduct.
“No matter what the problem is, committing a crime is bad,” said Adam Goldstein, SPLC attorney advocate.
Attempts to contact both women for comment have been unsuccessful.
An open records request has been made for the security footage.
This story will be updated as more information becomes available.
To contact Whitney Knight, email firstname.lastname@example.org. To contact Sarah Hussain, email email@example.com.