Staff Editorial: Know thy neighbor

Adrian Freeman – who went by the aliases Shawn Benedict and Antonio Freeman – has been a fixture on GW’s campus as far back as 1993, according to students and workers in the University-owned 2000 Pennsylvania Ave. retail complex. This alleged rapist easily hid among and even became friends with GW students, faculty and staff. The GW community should have exercised more caution dealing with Freeman, a man who the FBI considered armed and dangerous by.

Freeman is wanted in Ohio for a variety of crimes including the rapes of two girls under 13 years old, kidnapping and aggravated burglary. But by all accounts, Freeman, who students say went by the name Shawn, was an amicable homeless man who spent most of his time in and around 2000 Penn., ate at J Street and even visited some students’ homes. One business school professor even encouraged students to help Freeman with his business plan, which involved selling bean-bag versions of D.C. monuments.

Freeman found in GW a place where simply changing his name allowed his criminal past to disappear. He became an eccentric homeless man seen by many in the GW community to be relatively harmless. But there were opportunities for authorities to discover his violent past. University Police escorted Freeman out of a computer lab after a student worker reported being threatened by him. Workers said Freeman was involved in a fight with another homeless man outside 2000 Penn. UPD even arrested Freeman in September on a charge of making burglary threats when he allegedly threatened to rob a student in Lafayette Hall.

What is most disturbing, though, is how close Freeman became with so many people. Students exposed themselves to much greater risks than they realized by befriending Freeman without knowing his past. Faculty members should never have encouraged students to work with Freeman without knowing something about his background.

Campus security is certainly a concern for police officials and University administrators, but ensuring one’s own safety is a responsibility of every person at GW. Students must exercise caution when dealing with people in and beyond the GW community. Students cannot allow themselves to fall into the trap of being too trusting. Criminals know many college students are away from home for the first time and have a certain naivete that can be easily exploited. Luckily, no serious incidents occurred at GW while the University hosted Freeman. But having an indicted rapist on campus presents a potential catastrophe.

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