Police: Assaults often go unreported

Victims are often afraid of reprisals or in relationships with their attackers.

Koran Addo

Jeanine Cleaves heard a series of loud knocks on her door in the middle of the night.

When the University junior opened the door, she saw her ex-boyfriend at her doorstep, bleeding heavily.

He had been the victim of assault.

“It was the most blood I’ve ever seen,” Cleaves said.

Whether domestic or otherwise, assault in Minneapolis occurs more frequently than many realize. Assault on campus, while less frequent, still affects the lives of those who have been victimized.

There were more than 40 cases of assault on campus last year, mostly involving people who knew each other. Police officials said it is likely the number is much higher because many assaults go unreported.

“It was shocking to see (the blood),” Cleaves said. “I was extremely scared.”

Earlier that night, Cleaves’ ex-boyfriend Dominic Ladd was at a party in the Como neighborhood. On his way to another party, Ladd said a group of people drinking on a porch accosted him.

“They were threatening me, calling me a fag and other stuff,” Ladd said. “So I decided to go get my buddy who lives a block over to walk with me.”

Later, as Ladd and his friend Kevin Morales, a University junior, walked by the same house, Ladd said the people threatened him again.

This time Ladd said he answered them.

“I yelled back at them, why (did) they want to mess with us, we were just walking,” he said.

Morales said the number of people was intimidating.

“We put ourselves in a bad situation; there was like 10 of them and two of us,” he said.

After Ladd started to yell at the people on the porch, one of them, a University student known to Ladd only as Justin, started to walk over to them.

Ladd describes Justin as at least 6-feet-4-inches tall and well over 200 pounds.

“(Justin) came over to us, he must’ve been annihilated,” Ladd said. “He was probably just looking for a fight.”

Morales said he could tell something bad was about to happen.

Both men said Justin walked over to Ladd without saying a word and punched him in the face, knocking him to the ground.

He then turned and assaulted Morales before walking away.

Morales said his ear was hurt and he had a cut on the chin as a result of the assault, but Ladd was much worse off.

When he showed up at his ex-girlfriend’s house bleeding, neither of them had any idea of the extent of his injuries.

Cleaves drove Ladd to the hospital where he received 11 stitches, five on his chin and six inside his mouth. He was also treated for a concussion and a loose tooth.

Difficult to solve

As one of the tamer examples of assault, Ladd’s story represents a trend in campus crime that many times goes unreported, police said.

Assault in general is one of the most underreported crimes in Minneapolis, police said.

Despite the underreporting, police find themselves burdened with a backlog of assault cases with little hope of solving them.

Minneapolis police officer Ron Reier said police receive several assault cases each week, with little to no information about the suspects.

“Oftentimes there is drinking involved and it remains to be seen who assaulted who,” Reier said.

In these cases, the participants are deemed mutual combatants and no charges are filed, officials said.

University Deputy Police Chief Steve Johnson said most assaults on campus are related to alcohol.

Ladd said he and his attacker had been drinking.

Other times, police resources are stretched so thin that police can only concentrate on the most serious of cases, usually involving fractured bones and other serious injury, Reier said.

Reier said Ladd’s case is unfortunate, but that with only a first name for the suspect and little else to go on, there is not much police can do.

Protecting the attacker

In other cases, police officials said, victims are reluctant to identify their attackers or cooperate with police out of fear of reprisals, or because they are involved with their attacker in one way or another.

Last month, a University woman’s boyfriend assaulted her on the corner of southeast Washington and Ontario avenues.

According to police reports, a witness flagged down police to report a couple arguing on the street.

The witness told police that during the argument the man hit the woman with a closed fist at least once, before swinging her around violently.

When the officer approached the couple, the woman immediately said, “He hit me.”

The officer handcuffed the man, who did not deny the accusation, and placed him under arrest.

When the officer questioned the woman alone, she told him she had been dating the man for eight or nine months and had been arguing over a personal matter.

The woman then told the officer she had lied before and the man did not hit her.

The officer confronted the woman about marks on her face and also with the eyewitness’s account, but she did not change her story nor was she able to explain the discrepancy in stories, the police report said.

Advocacy experts said it is common for a victim to change their story to protect someone, especially in cases of domestic assault.

The man in question was taken to the Hennepin County Jail.

University police Lt. Chuck Miner said in cases in which an arrest is made, sometimes victims will not follow through with the prosecution.

Advocacy experts said it is a dangerous cycle when abusive behavior goes unpunished, which can in turn lead to future incidents.

Three weeks after the assault, Ladd still has marks on his face from where he was punched.

He said he is actively trying to find out more about his attacker.

“I don’t feel the need to sue anybody, even though my tooth is probably going to need work, but I just want to teach this guy a lesson that you can’t go around attacking people.”