NEW ORLEANS, La. (WDSU) - Courtesy: Juliana Mazza (WDSU)
Xavier University students said they were attending a midnight breakfast event on campus early Tuesday morning when campus police allegedly locked them inside the cafeteria and pepper-sprayed them. Two campus police officers have since been placed on leave, according to university officials.
"I was shocked," said Xavier University student Bianca Houser. "I was, like, let me get out of here. How do I get out of here? Trying to find exits and everything."
Students said they panicked when they realized they couldn't get out.
Many reported that they were locked in because staff wanted them to "clean up their mess." They told WDSU that's when campus police started pepper-spraying students who were trying to leave through a back exit. One student who wished to remain anonymous told WDSU, "I watched my friend scream that he couldn't breathe and his eyes were burning all while his face was bloodshot red. The officer's response was to put him in handcuffs as if he was a threat and keep the cuffs on him as he yelled out in pain."
University officials said they were investigating the reports, but would not confirm any details students had reported.
A letter from Xavier University President Reynold Verret that was sent to students read in part, "... an incident occurred that does not reflect Xavier’s mission or legacy. An investigation into the incident is underway." The university did confirm that two campus police officers were placed on leave pending the investigation.
"How are we truly going to change the situation from happening again? How are we going to elicit competency as to these two officers, and how they should handle hectic situations like last night?" said Xavier University junior Taylor Perry-Crawford. "It makes me feel unprotected."
WDSU will continue to follow this story.