It was a surprisingly cool evening last July as Portland State student Andrew Richardson stood outside his dorm in Montgomery Hall.
Cold as steel
It was a surprisingly cool evening last July as Portland State student Andrew Richardson stood outside his dorm in Montgomery Hall. He spoke casually with fellow student Haily Baptist. All in all, it was a pleasant Portland evening. Little did Richardson know that minutes later he would be stabbed and bleeding on the campus street where he stood.
As Richardson and Baptist conversed, student Heath Avery crossed their path. A wind breathed on the ivy, making the leaves shake and shudder when suddenly Avery doubled back and asked Richardson accusingly, “What did you say to me?”
Avery then gripped Richardson’s shirt collar and a scuffle ensued. Richardson threw Avery onto a bench and they collided again, this time harder. At this moment Avery’s knife was initially out of sight, yet Avery’s strike of cold steel into Richardson’s abdomen became painfully evident. But this initial spilling of blood near the almost unpopulated dorm halls turned out to be the first of many surprises—this was the beginning of an ordeal that PSU sadly mishandled, and left Richardson homeless.
Avery collected his knife and walked off scene as Baptist ran for help, which she found along the South Park Blocks while Richardson carried himself to a park bench, holding his side. They then used Richardson’s phone to report the attack and request an ambulance while she helped Richardson apply pressure to his wound. Baptist had found three men in PSU workers’ polos to assist in maintaining his blood levels.
The Portland Police were the first on the scene, followed swiftly by paramedics; yet Campus Security arrived last, evidently unprepared for the incident. As they administered first-aid to Richardson, Avery was caught on Southwest Fifth and Main, still brandishing his bloody knife.
Hospitalized and delirious but with his family at his side, Richardson spent a week and a half having his organs and spleen examined. Avery is in jail to this day and Baptist, struck by trauma that only violence can cause, divided her time between hospital visits and trying to get the administration to take action against Avery. Residents of Montgomery were called to a meeting about the incident.
“I don’t feel like the meeting accomplished anything,” Baptist said.
Richardson’s family came down from Walla Walla, Wash., after the stabbing, and were reassured by Student Affairs that his place of residence in Montgomery would be reserved and he would have a grace period before his housing contract ended.
“It was frustrating because [PSU] has a hotel, but when my family came down…they could have at least let them stay at their hotel.”
Two weeks after the stabbing, Richardson was spending time in Walla Walla at home recovering. The phone rang—he was informed that his room needed to be cleaned out or else they would consider it abandoned and throw away his possessions. Housing told him that his room was not, in fact, on hold as he was previously told, and was already reserved for someone else. If he wanted his things he would have to remove them by 8:30 p.m. that day.
He drove down that very day, still in pain from the stabbing and having layers of muscle cut through during surgery, and he and his girlfriend had 45 minutes to clean out
“I’ve been to George Fox, I’ve been to Walla Walla University—both private. The communities there would react,” Richardson said.
Instead, two CPSO officers and a ResLife representative stood idly by, making Richardson hurry while he carried boxes down the stairs, despite a constraint of being able to lift only 15 pounds due to his injury. Richardson was unable to remove all his belongings. He was forced to leave clothes, his laptop and his many get-well cards, amongst other things.
“There is such a disconnect between the different departments that I was just a number, I didn’t matter at all. Policy became more important than compassion,” Richardson said.
This lack of communication between the departments left Richardson with one option—moving into freshman housing. Being 24 years old, he decided against it.
On the other hand, Student Housing offered Baptist, the sole witness to the incident, a change of scene from Montgomery, allowing her to finish out the rest of her contract to avoid seeing the scene of the crime out her window every day. Yet Richardson claims that his family was promised the same deal, at the same time when they told him that his room would be reserved when he returned.
It seems that the school’s different departments were not trying enough to be consistent; what was promised by one department was not fulfilled by another. This is unacceptable, especially given the circumstances surrounding this situation.
Richardson currently lives in a relative’s basement, sleeping on a futon.
Admittedly, stories such as these are few and far between. Stabbings on campus don’t happen every day and in Richardson’s words, “It’s hard to believe that this even happened because living on campus—it’s like living in a safe haven within the city.”
But to make this situation even stickier, school officials may have had previous documentation of Avery. During Richardson’s stay in the hospital, he claims a resident advisor came to him saying that Avery was previously found in Ondine’s basement playing with a knife, likely the same one that Richardson was attacked with.
“That’s news to me. It’s probably hearsay,” said Cory Ray, representative from ResLife. “In this case, I can’t give you specifics for [Avery’s] case, but I can tell you that we followed our procedures.”
When the application of policy overrides common sense, mistakes will be made. Long live bureaucracy. ?