Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Anonymous tip sent to UMPD about claims of an ‘agitated Black male;’ University employee was walking to work

There was no threat on campus

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(Collegian file photo)

(Collegian file photo)

(Collegian file photo)

By Hayley Johnson, Editor in Chief

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On Friday morning at 7:45 a.m., the University of Massachusetts Police Department received a call on its anonymous tip line describing an “agitated Black male” walking up the ramp of Whitmore Administration Building. The man was said to be carrying a “heavy backpack that is almost hitting the ground,” according to UMPD Chief of Police Tyrone Parham.

Reginald Andrade, an employee of the University for 14 years and consumer manager in the Disability Services office, matched the physical characteristics described in detail in the call.

Andrade has had the same routine for many years. Monday through Friday, he gets up at 4 a.m., walks to Whitmore to drop off his things around 5:45 a.m., goes to the Recreation Center at 6 a.m. and returns to his office in time for work around 7:45 a.m.

On Friday, Andrade said he wore a salmon-colored shirt, gray dress pants, black shoes and carried a black Under Armour duffle bag on his right shoulder on the way back from his workout at the gym.

His day began like any other, arriving at his office and checking his calendar. At around 8:45 a.m., after a restroom break, Andrade returned to his office to find two men in plain clothing who asked to speak with him.

Andrade said the men identified themselves as UMPD detectives and began asking him questions.

“What time did you wake up this morning?” “What time did you come to campus?” “What did you do at the Recreation Center?” “Reg, when you came into the building today, were you agitated?”

“They did not tell me what was going on initially, they just kept asking me the questions. And I just sat in my office chair,” Andrade said. “I was cool and calm and composed. I had no idea what they were questioning me about.”

Chief of Police Parham said it was by chance that UMPD listened to the anonymous message so close to the time it was called in.

“Normally, if there is an emergency going on, or something that is really concerning, people call us, they leave their name and number and call us right away on a line that’s going to be answered 24 hours a day. Either 911 or our 545-2121 number. We’re always on that 24/7,” he said. “We also approach anonymous reports a little bit differently, as far as their level of credibility, because we never know about the credibility.”

Parham said, based on the suspicious behavioral details described in the anonymous call, this was something UMPD needed to promptly look in to.

“One of the things we zoned in on with that message, because we listened to it a couple times, was really the behavior,” he said. “So it’s not necessarily the description of the person, it was really the behaviors that were exhibited, as to the reasons that we thought we needed to confirm this.”

While UMPD searched Whitmore, they had the building locked to people entering and exiting.

“During this search, while we’re in the building, other staff are saying, ‘What’s going on?’ So, we told them and gave them the description, “Parham said. “Some of the staff were clearly like ‘Oh, I think I know who that is. [He] comes in everyday, works out, carries a large backpack, etc. etc.’ So, within minutes, we figure all of this out and know this is actually a person who works in the building.”

According to Parham, Whitmore was closed off for under 30 minutes while UMPD searched for a threat.

“Once we identified the person who we thought it was going to be, we tried to be as professional as we could, letting him know the background, how this [call] came in. The officers that were there were actually in plain clothes, very intentionally to be very casual,” he said. “This wasn’t meant to be any type of scare situation. We were actually confirming, because at this point we’ve been told ‘Yeah, that’s that employee.’ We needed to now actually confirm.”

One of UMass’ mottos is, “Building a community of dignity and respect.” This slogan can be found all around campus, including on a sign in the entryway of Whitmore.

“We are emphasizing dignity and respect this year, and that is core to what we’re about,” said Ed Blaguszewski, executive director of strategic communications at UMass. “What’s concerning to us is the particulars of the matter in terms of how it was called in and the specifics of the description and was this in some way developed to try to prompt the police to respond.”

“To call the anonymous tip line was very unusual, and just the richness of the detail was very unusual. So that just makes us pause and think, ‘Is there some sort of agenda here for the person calling in?’ We don’t know, but I think it raises questions in our minds,” he added.

Andrade connected this to the incident of racial profiling that occurred on the Smith College campus in July.

This year’s location for a Whitmore office retreat in August was Smith College. Andrade said the location for this was changed because he did not want to go to that campus.

“Our retreat got moved because of me, because I made a point to note that I felt uncomfortable going to Smith College because of racial profiling incidents and I would not feel safe for two days at that campus.”

“No one else gets racially profiled in my office, just me. I’m the only Black male who works in our office. There are very few Black males who work in Whitmore administration, period,” he said.

“UMass was just rated number 26 in the country for a public university. People are still getting racially profiled coming from the gym,” he added.

Parham said there is no way to track calls that come in on the UMPD anonymous tip line.

“We’d like to identify and speak with the caller, just to understand more about that situation as to what exactly they thought was suspicious or why that particular method [was used] as far as the anonymous tip line,” he said.

According to Parham, they believe it could be an employee who works in Whitmore, but considering multiple employees identified Andrade by the detectives’ descriptions, they are not sure.

Blaguszewski said, “We really want people to understand that we respond to these things in a prompt and appropriate manner, and it’s disconcerting when people feel that they’re in some way identified or targeted based on their background.”

“It was about perceived behaviors really. People have gym bags all the time. They walk around with them, they bring them into their offices, but the context of all of that together prompted the right police response, but sort of in a quick and measured, professional way.”

Hayley Johnson can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @hayleyk_johnson.

5 Comments

5 Responses to “Anonymous tip sent to UMPD about claims of an ‘agitated Black male;’ University employee was walking to work”

  1. amylieu on September 15th, 2018 8:19 pm

    Finally.. . I have been saying this for a while and said this on twitter to the University(was then banned), this college is racist AF.

    The professors and administrators just pretend not to be racist and hide behind the shield of compassion, equality and diversity.

  2. J on September 16th, 2018 11:12 am

    Wait, the cops shut down a university building for 30 minutes on an anonymous tip that there was an agitated Black male? Is being agitated a crime that really needs to be investigated? Having emotions isn’t a crime…even when you’re black

  3. Ed Cutting, Ed. D. on September 17th, 2018 5:00 am

    This isn’t a racial issue — this is about him being male — and disabled….

    First, and I mention this because it’s on the UMass website, he’s legally blind which means that he’s different. He walks differently because, well, he can’t see as well as the rest of us… And people are so intolerant of anyone who is different that this then becomes a threat in our Chicken-Little, the-sky-is-falling world of paranoia about the “next Virginia Tech Shooter”….

    And that’s my second point — he’s male. Memory is he played football as an undergrad — he’s a physically fit male. And he’s going into a building where most of the employees are female, and hence he doesn’t belong there because only women are going into the building at 7:45 AM…

    And third he’s carrying a large gym bag, which no one working in Whitmore ever would be because they’d all leave their exercise stuff in the trunk of their cars, except that he doesn’t drive and hence doesn’t have a car in the parking lot. He’s different, and hence dangerous.

    And in our Chicken-Little world of paranoia, instead of presuming that a man might have, well, gym stuff in what essentially is a gym bag, someone probably concluded that he had it full of guns and ammo and probably a couple of M203 grenade launchers for good measure. Because the only reason why a large man with a large backpack would be walking into Whitmore at 7:30AM would be to kill everyone working there…

    Yes, this is where the paranoia bred by the Assessment Care Team has gotten that campus — but it really doesn’t have anything to do with race. Yes, he’s the only Black man in his office, but he has three Black female coworkers, and until recently the director (Madeline Peters) was also a Black woman. And there is Corey Edwards working in the office to the left and Enku Gelaye working in the office to the right — it isn’t like the University of Alabama, circa 1958….

    Let me be clear — I’m disgusted that this happened, but let’s recognize it for what it was — the true paranoia that ACT has bred over the past decade. The concept of anonymous reporting of anyone who is different, the paranoid belief that anyone who is different inherently is dangerous. Particularly if he is male…

  4. Betsy on September 17th, 2018 9:16 am

    As an Alumni this INFURIATES ME! I do not understand why the campus police would consider this to be of such utter importance! A lockdown? Really? The campus police and the whole of the University has a lot to answer for!

  5. DB on September 17th, 2018 10:17 am

    The administration and the police couldn’t be handling this any worse. Talking about the caller as if they’re assuming he had honorable intentions and they just want to chat with him? Come on. The caller knew EXACTLY they they were doing, they deliberately used the ANONYMOUS tip line instead of calling 911 because they knew they were calling in a hoax and didn’t want to get caught. For Christ’s sake, the caller led the police to believe Andrade was a homicidal maniac about to commit mass murder! HE COULD HAVE GOTTEN KILLED BY THE POLICE, and the caller knew it, and the police know it, and they’re treating this like it was all just some kind of misunderstanding? The Chancellor, the police, the Communications office, they’re all a bunch of gutless cowards.

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