An anonymous tip is unraveling the mystery of a brutal attack that has left a Washington State University instructor in critical condition at a Spokane hospital.
Pullman police Chief Gary Jenkins said a tip from Western Washington led authorities to arrest 21-year-old Madeline A. Fouts and 23-year-old Joshua W. Nantz, both WSU students living in Pullman. Fouts is from Snohomish, Wash., and Nantz is from Mukilteo, Wash., according to their social media accounts.
“This will be the first group to know,” Jenkins told surprised students, faculty and community members he was addressing at the Native American Student Center on Wednesday. “I just took a phone call; we made an arrest.”
David Warner, a faculty member at the Department of Critical Culture, Gender and Race Studies in Pullman, was found unconscious in a parking lot at Adams Mall on March 30 around 1:55 a.m. Police identified suspects through surveillance footage taken by cameras installed in February through a federal grant.
Warner is still hospitalized at Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center in Spokane. Several reports from friends and family on the Rally for David Warner page on Facebook said he’s been unconscious since the attack.
“It’s hard to think about how this person so full of life and so full of compassion, humor, could be beaten and is in the hospital with these traumatic injuries,” said Warner’s supervisor and friend, associate professor David Leonard. The last time they spoke, March 28, they brainstormed lesson plans about the criminal justice system to engage students visually.
Fouts is one of four identified by investigators as suspects. She faces felony charges of rendering criminal assistance and lying to authorities.
Nantz came to the police department Wednesday evening “at the request of detectives” and was arrested there on suspicion of first-degree assault, a Pullman police news release said.
Jenkins expects additional arrests of two others responsible for the punches that knocked Warner to the ground.
Pullman investigators found Fouts at her apartment Wednesday morning and brought her into the police department for questioning. They arrested her around 12:30 p.m. and released her around 6 p.m. She is not believed to have assaulted Warner and is not considered dangerous to the community, police said.
Police got the tip before WSU President Elson Floyd offered a $10,000 reward for information in the case. The surveillance footage was circulated to more than 40,000 people, Jenkins said Wednesday. Detectives received about six tips following the reward offer, he said.
Police believe Warner was drinking the night of the assault, but his blood-alcohol levels have not been released. The attack happened shortly after last call at local bars.
Warner reportedly intervened in an escalating argument between a friend and a group of people, but he was punched and fell to the ground. Surveillance footage shows portions of the fight, but once Warner falls, the view is blocked by a parked car. The attack was reported by students in a criminology course after they saw the incident through surveillance cameras at Pullman dispatch.
Jenkins said Warner’s friend could not remember the moments leading up to the fight or why punches were thrown. Investigators believe alcohol was a factor for the lack of memory.
Jenkins cites Warner’s attack as a reason in favor of installing the video cameras at Adams Mall. Without the cameras detectives would likely not have solved the case, he said.
Investigators also believe the fight escalated because of alcohol consumption. Based on interviews with Fouts, there’s no indication of a hate crime.
Leonard said alcohol and party culture is a national issue, but that this incident is an extreme example bringing to light particular issues on campus. He hopes President Floyd’s proposed Commission on Campus Climate tackles broad issues of race and marginalization on campus and should not be limited to the attack on Warner.
“He’s really important to all of us. It’s hard when someone from your family you know is suffering — and continues to go through this horrible ordeal.”
Jenkins said there’s no trend of violent assaults in the city, with an average of 21 aggravated assaults annually since 2006. Those statistics do not include the WSU Police Department’s jurisdiction on campus.
Kristine Zakarison, a pastor at the Community Congregational United Church of Christ near College Hill in Pullman, said many faculty members attend her church, and she encouraged them to share photos from the video with their students to help identify the suspects and witnesses. With so many students living around them, she hopes to hold the neighborhood accountable for the violent acts.
“I think the problem in that neighborhood is the combination of so much alcohol and no sense of ownership,” Zakarison said.
Another Pullman resident, Beth Waddell, said she lived on College Hill with her family during the ’80s and ’90s but moved when the neighborhood started filling up with rentals instead of single-family homes. Following the arrest, she felt relief but hoped more people would do the right thing and come forward.
“I think it’s our time to pull together. If anything, I think this can serve as a real joining of the different factions: students, faculty — this is our moment,” Waddell said.
Several faculty members have been filling in for Warner’s three classes, Leonard said. He looks forward to Warner being back in the classrooms of Wilson Hall, but realizes the long path of healing in store for his friend.
“I think when we have incidents like this we lose the story of the person that’s been victimized,” Leonard said. “I understand … that we can’t tell everyone’s story, because sadly there’s been so much violence.”