Library staffers help law enforcement identify assault suspect

Two Fondren Library Center staff members have been commended by the SMU Police Department for helping to identify a suspect in a campus assault case.

Cindy Gautreaux, Public Services, and Joel Eatmon, Collection Development and Management, each received an SMU PD Crimebuster Award for their assistance. Read more.

The investigation began on the evening of April 29, 2008, when an SMU student reported being forcibly fondled by an unknown man in Fondren Library Center. Gautreaux and Eatmon recognized the suspect when he returned to the library on the afternoon of May 9.

The staffers were meeting in Gautreaux’s second-floor office when she saw the suspect, whom she recognized from a security camera photo featured in the Police Department’s campus crime alert. “His demeanor and clothing made me immediately suspicious,” she says.

After quick calls to Fondren Library’s Public Services desk and the SMU Police Department, responding officers Ross Hightower and Debbie Hardin arrested 43-year-old Fidel Tafoya of Fresno, California. Tafoya initially gave a false name and address to the officers. However, an SMU PD investigation confirmed that he is a registered sex offender in California and had not registered in the State of Texas.

Tafoya was charged with providing false identification to a peace officer. The Dallas Police Department is conducting an investigation; additional charges in California and Texas could be filed at a later time.

From beginning to end, the case was a great example of how a combination of awareness, teamwork and technology can help prevent campus crime, says SMU Chief of Police Richard Shafer.

“All the elements were in place,” he says. “The student reported the incident immediately, our camera system got photos of the suspect and we posted alerts. The staffers called police as soon as they recognized him, and the arresting officers responded right away. The people and the technology worked together, and the result was exactly what we wanted.”

Gautreaux also credits a security awareness workshop presented to all Central University Libraries employees in fall 2007 by SMU Police Lt. Enrique Jemmott. “That information was very helpful in this situation,” she says. “Providing a safe place for SMU students to study is something the Fondren Library Center staff members take very seriously.”

Visit the SMU Police Department online.