Costumed student arrested at gunpoint outside library

By Collegian News Staff

A University of Massachusetts student was arrested at gunpoint outside the W.E.B. Du Bois library Oct. 8 after he was observed running around campus dressed in costume and making obscene gestures at bystanders and buildings, according to Patrick Archibald, UMPD deputy chief.

The student, Hejian “Rick” Liu, of Newton, was reportedly dressed as the character Rorschach from the graphic novel “Watchmen,” garb that includes a long trench coat and face mask.

Matt Modica/Collegian File Photo

Liu was first spotted around the Campus Center but moved toward the library, where he was ordered by responding officers to show his hands, which he had put in his pockets. According to Archibald, officers initially believed that Liu, who had his back to the police, was ignoring the officers’ commands, leading one officer to draw a weapon and point it at Liu.

The suspect was in fact wearing headphones, and could not see or hear the officers shouting. Archibald could not say exactly when Liu assented to the officers’ orders, but it did not occur until after the firearm was drawn.

Liu was arrested and charged with disturbing the peace. He was bailed from custody and will be arraigned at the Eastern Hampshire District Court in Belchertown on an undisclosed date.

Liu, a mechanical engineering major, intended to cause a disturbance in an attempt to ensure his expulsion from UMass, according to Archibald.

Liu’s Facebook profile contains a large number of long, introspective posts dating back several months, many of which discuss a “mental illness” that Liu claims is paranoid schizophrenia, and that he said began in high school.

In a post created on the day of the incident, Liu says that he “finally realize[d] where this ends,” and that he had “played this game before.” He ends the post with the definitive, “F*** fate and the gods who toy with our world and existence. I’m out.”

Because of the “odd behavior” Liu displayed in this situation, it appeared to the officers on the scene as though Liu could have been concealing a weapon, Archibald said. His repeated non-compliance with police commands to reveal his hands reportedly gave officers greater belief that there was appropriate reason to draw firearms.

“Whenever (an officer) is dealing with a suspect who keeps their hands in their pockets or behind their back (despite police commands), that person could potentially be concealing a weapon,” Archibald said. “Each ignored request by the suspect to reveal their hands gives police greater reason to believe there could indeed be a weapon.

“If (the officer) feels like they or the public is at risk, it is up to that officer’s discretion as to when a weapon should be drawn,” he added.

According to Archibald, UMPD reviews each instance in which a weapon is drawn by a UMPD officer, a process that is currently underway regarding this incident.

“Any time there is a use of force by one of our officers, including the drawing of firearms, we take it very seriously,” Archibald said. “We are in the process of reviewing this incident currently, at which time our command staff will determine whether appropriate action was taken by the officer.”

Archibald would not disclose the name of the arresting officer involved in Liu’s arrest.

Conor Snell can be reached at [email protected]