Duke University suspended the season of its nationally ranked men's lacrosse team Tuesday while the authorities investigated allegations that a woman from a nearby college who had agreed to dance at a private party attended by many team members had been sexually assaulted.
The incident on March 13, which occurred at an off-campus house owned by the university, has brought into sharp relief long-simmering tensions between the private university and the city. The woman is black, most of the team members are white and law-enforcement officials say they are investigating allegations that racial epithets were shouted at the woman.
Residents, students and faculty members have staged at least five protests in the last four days, including one Tuesday night outside the building where Duke's president, Richard H. Brodhead, was holding a news conference. They are upset with the silence of team members and the university's handling of the case.
Mr. Brodhead's announcement that the team's season was being suspended came five days after 46 of 47 members of the Blue Devils lacrosse team provided DNA samples to Durham police investigators. The team's roster includes 26 players from New York, New Jersey and Connecticut high schools. Mr. Brodhead said that he met with the team's captains Tuesday morning and that they apologized for the embarrassment they had caused themselves, their families, the athletic department and the university. They also denied the allegations made by the woman, who said she had been assaulted in a bathroom by three team members.
Here's today's report on Brodhead's decision from the student newspaper here. But, more importantly, today's Duke Chronicle also includes this explosive story, which includes new details on alleged physical evidence of rape and another case of lacrosse team members shouting racial epithets:
The Durham Police Department released tapes Tuesday of 911 calls recorded in the early hours of March 14 during and after a party at which members of the men's lacrosse team allegedly gang-raped, sodomized and strangled an exotic dancer.
The captains of the team "unequivocally" denied the sexual assault and rape allegations in a statement-the group's first public statement about the situation.
President Richard Brodhead said at a press conference Tuesday evening that the captains had denied to administrators that sex "of any kind" occurred with the dancer, reportedly a 27-year-old black student at North Carolina Central University.
District Attorney Mike Nifong said Tuesday on MSNBC's The Abrams Report that the circumstances of the case exclude the possibility that there was no sexual activity.
"I am convinced that there was a rape," Nifong said, adding that nurses observed vaginal trauma upon examining the alleged victim.
Teammates who did not commit or observe the alleged assault are potentially liable for charges of aiding and abetting the crime because of teammate relationships, he added.
In the newly released 911 tapes, a female caller who was driving past 610 N. Buchanan Blvd.-a residence leased by three members of the lacrosse team and the scene of the party where the alleged rape occurred-reported that a white man yelled racial slurs at her from in front of the residence.
"He just hollered out n- to me, and I'm just so angry I didn't know who to call," she said to the 911 operator.
The Durham Herald Sun has also filed a report with new details:
Meanwhile, new details of the alleged rape have emerged from the court order used to obtain DNA samples from 46 lacrosse players last week.
According to the Police Department's application for the order, medical records gave credence to the victim's allegations.
The records "revealed the victim had signs, symptoms and injuries consistent with being raped and sexually assaulted vaginally and anally," according to the document.
A forensic sexual assault nurse conducted the evaluation, the document said, and stated that the victim's "injuries and her behavior were consistent with a traumatic experience."
Also, the city released a recording Tuesday of a call an unidentified woman made to 911 dispatchers the night of the alleged rape in which she claimed to have been walking outside the house where the lacrosse party was held. The woman reported that a man standing in front of the wall near 610 N. Buchanan Blvd. called her and a black friend "niggers" as they walked past the residence.
The woman told the dispatcher that she "isn't hurt or anything," but that she simply wanted to report the incident. The dispatcher gave no indication that she would send a police cruiser to the area.
The alleged rape victim is black and told police that the lacrosse players at the party, all of whom were white, also used racial slurs.
Police spokeswoman Kammie Michael did not answer questions about the time between the woman's call and the call reporting the alleged rape, which came from a security guard at the Kroger on Hillsborough Road.
Michael said the alleged rape victim was not the same woman who called about the racial slur. But Michael did not respond to a question asking whether the woman who called about the racial slur was the woman who accompanied the alleged rape victim to the party.
When the Kroger security guard called police, she told the dispatcher that the alleged victim was sitting in a car and was "intoxicated, drunk or something." The guard said the woman wouldn't get out of the car.
The guard told the dispatcher that the owner of the car was standing with her at the customer service station.
Michael did not answer a question asking whether the alleged rape victim was intoxicated.
But in an interview Tuesday night, the guard, Angel Altmon, said that once she went to the car and saw the woman, she no longer thought she was intoxicated. In particular, there was no odor of alcohol, Altmon said.
"Somebody must have slipped her something, because she wasn't drunk," Altmon said. "If she was drunk I would have smelled something."
Altmon said she didn't see any bruises on the woman, although it was dark. She said the woman was wearing just one high-heeled shoe and see-through lingerie.
Altmon also said the driver of the car told her she didn't go to the party with the alleged victim. The driver said she was driving near the party scene when she saw the alleged victim walking outside. "She said she saw a whole lot of Duke guys hollering at her" and using racial slurs, Altmon said. She said the driver said she stopped to pick up the woman and brought her to the Kroger to call police.
At the same time, however, people on campus are so upset that there's a danger of a lynch mob mentality, as this quote illustrates:
Nearly 200 people gathered outside campus administrator offices Monday to express anger and demand action in response to a rape investigation involving the men's lacrosse team.
The incident has sparked outrage on and off campus about sexual violence, classism and racism.
"I am outraged that there's a silence. ... I am outraged that legal rights are used to quiet this issue," said Meenakshi Chivukula, a junior from Medfield, Mass.
PS: Audio clips of the 9/11 calls are available in the online version of a Raleigh News & Observer article.
Update 3/29 12:33 PM: President Brodhead's statement on the team's suspension is here.