Homeless man arrested for trespassing on campus Wednesday, student leaders voice concerns

A+line+of+Wichita+State+University+Police+Department+patrol+cars+line+department%27s+parking+lot+off+Perimeter+Road.+

Daniel Caudill

A line of Wichita State University Police Department patrol cars line department’s parking lot off Perimeter Road.

The Wichita State police department arrested a homeless man for trespassing Wednesday.

The Chief of WSU police Rodney Clark said that the man was served a no trespass order in the past but failed to comply, which was the reason he got arrested. 

“Originally the person was reported up in the RSC, pulling on doors, kind of looking into rooms and things like that,” Clark said. “[He] claimed he was up there to watch TV or whatnot.”

Student Senator John Kirk said he saw the man prior to being arrested walking through the Rhatigan Student Center moments before officers questioned students in the office. 

“There was a gentleman who passed us, we didn’t think much about it,” Kirk said. “I mean, I saw him, that was the end of it so I went upstairs.”

Kirk said moments after, WSU police officers came to the Student Government office to question them about the individual.

“They asked us if we saw a homeless man walking through the RSC,” Kirk said. “They described an African American man with a beard and I said, ‘Well, yeah he passed us, why?’ And then the student advocate and us just asked, ‘What else do you want?’”

SGA’s Student Advocate Caitlyn Hammack said that the officers advised the students to not approach the man.

“The officers then proceeded to tell us that if we saw this man that they were looking for we should not approach him or speak to him as he may be dangerous,” Hammack said in an email to The Sunflower.  “They talked about the man negatively and said that they had arrested him and taken him into custody once before for trespassing.”

Later, Hammack asked what the course of action would be if they found the man.  

“He answered that they would arrest him,” Hammack said. “He said that they had given him a warning and then arrested him once before for trespassing. I was confused as to how this was the case because I was under the impression that since Wichita State University is a public institution anyone is welcome on campus.”

Clark said that while WSU is a public university, individuals are not allowed to do certain activities that could cause disruptions to students or staff.

“It is a public university as far as most outside spaces, but not just anybody’s necessarily allowed to go into rooms in the RSC and just hang out and watch TV,” Clark said.  “That can sometimes be disruptive to students and activities going on.”

Kirk said that they went on to question the officers to see if they would do anything to help him find shelter.

“We asked [the officer] if there is anything that they do to help,” Kirk said. “They kind of just danced around the question, saying ‘Well, we do everything we can to do what we can for the individual we don’t just arrest them on sight.’”

Clark said that in this specific incident, he is unaware of what the officers did to help the individual.

While there is no policy stating that officers need to direct homeless individuals to shelters, Clark said that it is not an uncommon practice.

“In general, we try to direct people to [a shelter],” Clark said. “It will not be uncommon for a police officer to say, ‘Hey, if you’re in need of a place to say there’s a shelter.’ … That would just be general advice.”

Kirk said that he believes arresting him wouldn’t make any change. 

“Arresting him isn’t going to do anything,” Kirk said. “He’s just going to come back and he obviously doesn’t have food or anything and it’s starting to get cold outside.”

Kirk later witnessed the arrest.

“I was coming out of the west side of [Duerksen] and I was walking to the parking lot and I saw the police car and the individual that I saw earlier being put into the car,” Kirk said. 

Hammack said the situation left her with some questions.

“This leaves me with questions about how these types of situations are dealt with on all levels and how the general society views people of lower socioeconomic status, specifically people who are without a home,” she said.