UPDATE: FAU police report does not claim Saunders left scene, witnesses do

Dylan Bouscher

[ED NOTE: A previous version of this story reported in the headline that the police report did not claim Saunders drove away. This has since been corrected.]

After FAU President Mary Jane Saunders hit a student protester with her car, she left the scene of the accident, according to witnesses, but the police reports did not specify whether she did.

Around 11:30 a.m. on Friday, March 22, Saunders was escorted by FAU police officers past almost two dozen students from the Stop Owlcatraz Coalition protesting the university’s recent stadium naming rights agreement with a private prison company. The protesters were there, according to several of them, because they wanted to reopen an academic discussion about the naming rights deal.

To read the released police report of the accident involving President Saunders and the protesters, check here.

The report includes summaries of the accident written by two separate officers, but no testimony from the victim, Honors College resident-student and women’s studies major Britni Hiatt, or any other witnesses.

“The investigation is still open because the police reports and witness testimonies do not reflect the same story,” Hiatt told the UP.

And although Hiatt claimed she was moving away from the vehicle when she was hit — as did several student protesters who were standing within feet of Saunders’ car when the accident occurred — that’s not what happened according to Tracey Merritt, the FAU police who reported the accident.

“When President Saunders’ vehicle began to move forward, Britni Hiatt stayed in the same place,” according to Merritt’s report. “Britni Hiatt did not fall, or was not even pushed down from the vehicle’s momentum.”
Then, the reports from both officers state that Saunders felt threatened by the students.

“We were being chased by the protesters with signs,” FAU Police Officer Lester Lockett wrote in his report. “Saunders appeared physically shaken up and very frightened for her safety by this encounter. She grasped my right arm very tightly during our travel from the S.R. building to her vehicle.”

Cate Armuelles, a junior women’s studies major, who chased after Saunders and stood in front of her car before the accident occurred, did not think students were threatening Saunders.

“When we ran after her, we were trying to get her to speak with us, and she wouldn’t,” Armuelles told the UP. “So we surrounded her car with signs, signs that were very non-threatening. Signs that said ‘We humbly request an academic conversation’.”

Yet neither summary provided by Officers Merritt or Lockett explained whether Saunders drove away from the accident or not.

Of the two reports written by Officer Merritt and Officer Lockett, only Lockett’s report states “the vehicle began to drive away,” while Merritt’s report states “the vehicle being driven by President Saunders was photographed.”

There were no photographs provided with the report. The crimes reported include: “traffic crash pedestrian with injuries,” “Disturbance,” “Disobey police officer,” and “Pedestrian shall not leave curb or safety into path.”

According to multiple student protesters who witnessed the accident, however, Saunders left the scene of the accident.

“Oh no, she kept driving. And that’s what threw me for a loop,” Armuelles said. “If she feared for her safety, when it came down to it, she’s also responsible for students. And she didn’t care, at all, that it could have been someone else like a student’s safety that were threatened or injured by her?

“She did not stop. She did not put down a window and ask about her. She sped out of the parking lot … she went the wrong way in the loop to speed off out of the parking lot.”

Honors College alumnus Zandra Kalina, who was standing within feet of Saunders’ car when the accident occurred, agrees with Armuelles. “It was just shocking that President Saunders didn’t stop, or slow down or decelerate after,” Kalina said.

Luca Cirino, an Honors College sociology major who was also protesting and standing next to Saunders’ car, agreed with Hiatt, Kalina, and Armuelle that Saunders drove away.

“I saw [Saunders] hit Britni and I saw Britni hunch over. I was so offended that she had sped off like that I actually started, you know, I get very upset when people hurt my friends, so I was following her, but she didn’t stop. She sped out of the parking lot … she ran two stop signs going the wrong direction.”

“I think this whole situation would be easier to resolve if President Saunders stopped her car, got out, and made sure I was OK,” Hiatt said.