The Oakland Post

Incidents present the possibility of a serial arsonist on campus

The+South+Foundation+women%27s+restroom+remains+padlocked+and+closed+to+campus.
The South Foundation women's restroom remains padlocked and closed to campus.

The South Foundation women's restroom remains padlocked and closed to campus.

Elyse Gregory

Elyse Gregory

The South Foundation women's restroom remains padlocked and closed to campus.

Laurel Kraus, Managing Editor

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Only months after being voted the second safest campus in the country, the Oakland University Police Department is leading an investigation into a series of on-campus arson incidents beginning in early May 2018.

The third and most recent fire occurred on Thursday, June 21 at approximately 8:30 p.m. in the third floor women’s restroom in South Foundation Hall.

While the first two fires were not very extensive, according to OUPD Chief Mark Gordon, Thursday night’s was much more serious and caused significant damage.

An open fire is believed to have been somewhere near the door because of the amount of debris on the ground in that area, and the extensive smoke damage and soot within the bathroom.

The bathroom will be out of service for repairs, and it is unclear when it will reopen.

The first incident took place in early May within the second floor men’s restroom in Hannah Hall, while the second, on June 1, was also in the third floor women’s restroom in South Foundation.

Since both were very minor, the custodian simply cleaned up the damage. The OUPD was not called and therefore did not get a chance to investigate them.

The possibility that these crimes were perpetrated by the same person or persons is still being considered.

“There is a lot of consistency in all three incidents, so it makes me believe that it’s possible but I can’t say for sure, that’s still under investigation at this point,” Gordon said.

An arson investigator was brought in from the Auburn Hills Fire Department to investigate the third fire, and has since completed his investigation and turned the scene back over to the OUPD. The findings, as of June 25, have not yet been reported to the OUPD as this typically takes a few days.

Surveillance footage was not available for any of the incidents, leaving the OUPD with no suspects currently. Gordon reported this could be the case for any number of reasons including the possibilities of cameras not pointed in the right direction, being down for repairs or simply not existing in that specific location.

The OUPD’s approach to this investigation currently lies in relying on the university community to aid with any potential knowledge of these incidents.  

“We consider the investigation ongoing, and we are trying very hard to identify a suspect,” Gordon said via email. “We are asking the community to forward any information to the OUPD related to this case. The police department relies on the community to come forward with any known information during incidents like this to help us identify those responsible.”

Anyone with information regarding the incidents can call the OUPD dispatch center directly or can remain anonymous by sending in a tip at oupolice.com/tip.

“I think students need to be mindful and keep an eye out,” Oakland University Student Congress President Ryan Fox said. “OU is still a pretty safe community, all things compared to, and don’t let this one criminal’s actions make people believe that OU’s not safe, because it is.”

Incidents of arson have occured on Oakland’s campus in the past, although few and far between. These include a tree set on fire a few years ago and a mattress once set on fire in one of the residence halls.

The community will be alerted via another notice if another fire occurs.

“This is very unusual for Oakland University, we’re traditionally a very safe campus, and with the help of the community we can continue to be that,” Gordon said.

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