NORTHFIELD — Police executed search warrants Friday at Norwich University in an investigation involving allegations of hazing within the women’s rugby team, including allegations of branding and waterboarding, after the school reportedly refused to fully cooperate with the investigation.

A spokesperson for the school said Norwich has fully cooperated with police.

Cruisers from multiple law enforcement agencies sat outside of Dodge Hall as police collected evidence from the private military school. The warrants didn’t appear to cause much disruption on campus, with students going to and from class without issue.

Officer Karie Tucker, of the Northfield police, said in her affidavit on March 20 police were dispatched to the school for a report of someone being held at knifepoint. Tucker said police located an intoxicated female inside Dodge Hall, along with her cellphone and a knife. The victim is a member of the women’s rugby team.

Tucker said a witness, who also lives in Dodge Hall, reported she had checked on the victim multiple times the night of the incident. The witness told police the last time she checked on the victim the door to the victim’s room was locked and the victim was found by a window covered in urine.

Tucker said she spoke to the victim on March 22 who reported she was intoxicated the night of the incident, but she thought someone had come into her room. The victim reported she grabbed a knife and threatened them with it, but was unclear about what happened because she was intoxicated, according to court records.

Tucker said the victim reported she had been “branded” using pliers and a lighter by other members of the rugby team. The officer said the victim reported she was too intoxicated to say no and would not have agreed to be branded had she been sober.

Tucker said the victim gave the officer consent to look at the victim’s cellphone. The officer said she observed a Snapchat video from the phone where the victim was holding a chair down and a second, unidentified girl sat in the chair with a washcloth, or something similar, held over her face while a third girl poured liquid onto the cloth.

Tucker said what she saw she “would call waterboarding,” according to court records.

Tucker’s affidavit was filed as part of a search warrant seeking data from the phone as part of an investigation into possible assaults.

Washington County State’s Attorney Rory Thibault said his office was aware of the investigation, but declined to comment further.

Northfield Police Chief John Helfant, in an email Friday, confirmed the police activity on campus was connected to the investigation into allegations of hazing involving “branding and waterboarding of and by NU students.”

Helfant said there has been a verbal memorandum of understanding between his department and the school since he’s been chief. Helfant said police were allowed to talk to students in their dorm rooms about criminal investigations while officers were accompanied by Norwich security.

“This has been the established past practice and was indeed permitted on Tuesday of last week. That access was then denied for this investigation as of Friday of last week. NU was only willing to have students come away from their residences and meet us at a conference room. There are a host of issues which this presents for law enforcement,” Helfant said.

The chief said police then obtained search warrants for access to two dorm rooms and for electronic communications. Helfant said the evidence will be collected and the investigation is ongoing.

Daphne Larkin, director of media relations and community affairs at Norwich, said in statement Friday, “Norwich University is subject to federal student privacy laws and other restrictions on what it may disclose. Sometimes, law enforcement officials become confused about the extent to which we may respond to their requests. Norwich University has fully cooperated with the Northfield Police Department in their investigation of the allegations surrounding this incident while ensuring the constitutional rights of our students and employees.”

Emails obtained by The Times Argus through a public records request show the school, on advice from legal counsel, has decided it will not provide body camera footage, or other investigative materials, from its security personnel to law enforcement without a subpoena. Thibault had sent Lawrence J. Rooney, chief of security at Norwich, an email on Feb. 18 seeking a written memorandum of understanding between the school and police in Northfield which would lay out how body camera footage would be handed over to police as part of a criminal investigation. Police were seeking footage for an incident unrelated to the hazing.

Rooney told the state’s attorney in a Feb. 21 email, “After careful consideration and advice from our counsel, we are not interested in entering into an MOU with Northfield Police Dept. We do want to support your office and law enforcement, but I have been advised to let you know, if your office needs the body cam video for this incident, we will require a subpoena.”

On Feb. 21, Northfield Officer Brian Gosselin asked Rooney for lobby camera footage, as well as statements collected by school security about a fight that took place in Dalrymple Hall in an unrelated incident. Rooney responded on March 2 after checking with Norwich attorneys, “we will need a subpoena for the information you are requesting.”

eric.blaisdell @timesargus.com

(1) comment

moonrakerdashiki

Interesting article, thank you

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