One of the former Tiger Transit drivers charged with sexually assaulting an 18-year-old Auburn student on a transit bus Friday remained free for nearly a full day before being apprehended and taken into custody by police.
The Auburn Police Division detained James Don Johnson Jr., 32, at his home Saturday night at 9:23 p.m. — nearly 22 hours after the sexual assault was reported and the other suspect, Tony Martin Patillo, 51, was arrested at the scene, police confirmed to The Plainsman Wednesday.
Johnson was allegedly driving the bus on which the victim was assaulted. Police said he engaged in actions that perpetuated the crime. He, like Patillo, has been charged with first-degree rape and first-degree sodomy. Johnson is no longer listed an inmate at the Lee County Jail, having posted his $125,000 bond.
The University waited until noon on Monday to issue a statement on the assault. News reports of the assault began circulating at 10 a.m. when the Auburn Police Division issued a report. A campus-wide email notifying students of the attack wasn't sent until 2 p.m. Monday afternoon.
"By not telling students, not telling parents and not telling stakeholders in Auburn until days after the fact, even hours after the story broke, really made me feel like Auburn put our safety on the backburner," said Kayla Warner, a former Miss Homecoming candidate whose platform addressed sexual assault prevention.
When a separate sexual assault was reported on July 18, a campus-wide public safety notice was sent to all students the same night. The sexual assault reportedly happened the day before in a dorm on campus, according to Campus Safety and Security.
"It seems like they were trying to save their reputation instead of thinking of the safety of the students and giving parents a sound mind," Warner said. "I'm just really disappointed in how long it took."
The University said they did not issue an
"We did not send an AUAlert message because there was no immediate threat to students or campus," a University spokesman said earlier Tuesday. "The two suspects were immediately detained by police and subsequently arrested."
Several students who have spoken with The Plainsman raised similar concerns that neither an AUAlert nor a public safety notice was sent Saturday before Tiger Ten, the night transit service that runs on weekends, began operating again that night.
Students also took their concerns to the Student Government Association.
"Questions were raised by students and that was passed along," said SGA President Jacqueline Keck. "We in SGA are always concerned about student safety. When students were concerned about why there wasn't an AUAlert, that is why that email was sent to everybody."
SGA took the students' concerns to Campus Safety and Security. Keck said SGA was told the same thing that was sent in the email and in University statements.
"We took that as truth," Keck said. "We wanted to make sure that students had the same information that we had, that there was no imminent threat."
The University has said it is reviewing its relationship with First Transit, the contractor that operates Tiger Transit and Tiger Ten. First Transit said in statements to The Plainsman that it performs background checks and drug screenings on all prospective employees.
Both of the suspects passed their background checks, according to the contractor, which also operates more than 20 other universities' campus transit systems.
"We are looking at the contract with them and using that as our guide in the evaluation," a University spokesman said. "We don’t reveal specifics on security measures."