SAN DIEGO — Police are investigating high-profile reports of an off-campus sexual assault involving students at San Diego State University, a school spokesperson confirms.
The university publicly addressed the case Friday after an article in the Los Angeles Times detailed an anonymous student-athlete’s claim that in October 2021, five members of the SDSU football team were involved in the rape of an unconscious, underaged girl at an off-campus party.
While the university did not confirm specifics on the number of people accused in the assault case, or whether any of them played for the football team, they did verify that they were cooperating with an ongoing police investigation into the allegations.
In a statement, SDSU officials said that detectives with the San Diego Police Department reached out to them in October 2021 to notify them of an off-campus sexual assault investigation.
According to the school, police said there was no need for SDSU’s Title IX office — which investigates cases of sexual violence and discrimination on the basis of sex — or the school’s University Police Department to open their own investigation into the incident.
“SDPD formally requested that the university not initiate a separate investigation or take other actions – including conducting interviews – which could compromise its criminal investigation,” SDSU officials said in the emailed statement to FOX 5. “SDSU’s police department has remained in communication with SDPD since the original reporting and has been repeatedly updated that SDPD’s investigation is active and ongoing. The university will continue to comply and not compromise the police investigation.”
In the statement, SDSU representatives said the move to not open their own investigation was considered by SDPD as “best practice” to “protect the integrity of the criminal process.” That includes their choice, the school said, not to confirm the identity of the victim or the names of the students involved.
According to the L.A. Times report, rumors rapidly spread around campus about an assault at a house party on Oct. 16. Ten days later, a student-athlete used an anonymous reporting system to tell school officials that “5 football players raped an unconscious girl at a football party two weeks ago.”
The student said they were not at the party but learned second-hand that “the girl was left bruised and bloody … in the backyard of a football house. Not even in a room,” according to the newspaper.
In their statement Friday, the school took issue with the L.A. Times headline, which states that the allegations “were followed by months of silence.”
Officials say they requested — in writing — that any and all victims be provided information on the Title IX office at SDSU, should they want to come forward or take advantage of its various programs. School officials said that police told them they provided the victim with that information.
To this day, officials say that neither the University Police Department or the Title IX office have received a formal claim from a victim or witness connected to the incident.
While the university described the allegations as “abhorrent,” representatives said that they agreed to not take any action that could compromise SDPD’s investigation, citing that interference could alert suspects and ultimately cause the destruction of evidence or the coercion of witnesses in this case.
This also comes down to the limited powers that the school has when it comes to investigations into off-campus incidents, as compared to the subpoena powers and abilities to interview non-students that detectives with SDPD have, SDSU officials stated Friday.
“We understand that the nature of the alleged crime has raised concerns, especially in a tight-knit college community,” SDPD Lt. Adam Sharki said in an emailed statement Friday. “Since taking the initial report in October, San Diego Police Department Sex Crimes investigators have made this case a priority and have been diligent in pursuing leads and conducting interviews.”
Sharki echoed the university regarding the reasoning for not releasing more information about the victim or the accused.
“Revealing any information prematurely would not only compromise the integrity of the case but could be damaging to anyone directly involved with the investigation,” Sharki’s statement reads.
Anyone with information about the case can contact the department’s non-emergency line at 619-531-2000, or report tips anonymously to San Diego County Crime Stoppers at 888-580-8477.
FOX 5’s Matt Meyer contributed to this report.