Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Vol. CLIV, Issue 10
Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Off-Campus House Break-Ins Leave Students Shaken

Several break-in incidents occurred at off-campus student houses this week, leaving the Whitman College community on high alert.

Reports of thefts and attempted thefts came from the Beta Theta Pi house on Isaacs Avenue and at least one other off-campus house occupied by upperclassmen.

Two known suspects were apprehended late Sunday night after attempting to enter the back of the Beta fraternity house around 10:30 p.m. They were seen by five residents of Beta while they tried to unlock the back door of the house.

“We were sitting in our backyard and saw two guys run up behind the trash cans on the side of our kitchen,” said a Beta resident, who witnessed the attempted theft and asked to remain anonymous due to concerns of his safety. “We didn’t know what they were doing, and at one point we saw one of them climb up the steps and try to open the back door to our house, at which point we went up and talked to them.”

After realizing that they did not recognize the two men, the witnessing fraternity members approached them and asked why they were trying to enter the house. The two men said they were playing a practical joke and were sent to scare them. They left soon after the confrontation. However, the residents felt that the men had ulterior motives and called the police.

“I called the police and gave them a description because we had talked to them, so we knew exactly who they were,” said a second witnessing resident, who also requested to remain anonymous due to safety concerns. 

The Walla Walla Police Department (WWPD) did confirm that they had received notification of a break-in at Beta and worked with Whitman Security to try to find the suspects.

“We did receive a call from Beta Theta Pi late Sunday,” said Walla Walla Police Officer Kevin Branan. “[The WWPD] assisted Whitman security officers after they reported two suspects trying to trespass on campus.”

Twenty minutes after calling the police, the five Beta residents went inside. They heard a scraping on a window and saw that someone had attempted to open windows from outside the house. The second resident called the police again. During this time, the Beta residents also noticed that another member of the house’s car had been broken into. It was later ascertained that the car manual and insurance papers had been taken.

“I went upstairs and got on the phone with the police, and I followed [the burglars],” said the second resident. “They tried to hide in front of Beta’s wall, and then the bushes in front of the houses. Meanwhile, they had burglarized another member of the house’s car, and seemed to go over to another house.”

A second off-campus house located on Isaacs Avenue was also broken into on the same night. A resident of the house confirmed that laptops, costly sports equipment and other valuables were stolen, in what was likely a related burglary.

“There were several other reported break-ins,” said Officer Branan. “One was reported in a house on Madison Street, and there was a vehicle prowl within four or five blocks of the school. There were several related incidents within the same time frame. Due to the proximity, they were likely connected.”

Later on Sunday, the police had apprehended the two men who had attempted to enter the Beta house in front of North Hall. The two Beta residents who had witnessed the earlier suspicious activity identified the men and gave formal statements to the police. The Police Department could not release information regarding the suspects’ current situation.

The experience was jarring for the witnesses at Beta, and has caused the fraternity and other students living both on and off campus to be watchful of suspicious activity.

“It was a pretty crazy experience, you know. You just never think you’re going to run into something like that at this school. Especially in lieu of the burglaries around, we’ve been told at chapter to basically be on high alert,” said the Beta student who first called the police. 

In his email sent out to Whitman students this week, Dean of Students Chuck Cleveland encouraged caution when locking doors and storing valuables. This has been the second reported incident of burglary in the fraternities in the past two years; the last incident of burglary in the fraternities occurred over Thanksgiving break in 2011, when all four fraternities were broken into. If you or someone you know witnesses suspicious behavior or burglary, call the Walla Walla Police Department at 509-527-1960.

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