2nd attack on university-rented property brings concern

2nd attack on university-rented property brings concern

By Claudia Lauer, Associated Press | Posted - Sep. 4, 2015 at 6:32 p.m.

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LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — A second violent attack on property rented by the University of Arkansas has some students and faculty wondering if more needs to be done to help Fayetteville's population of homeless people.

University of Arkansas at Fayetteville police said they arrested a 36-year-old homeless man after a machete attack Thursday night on the wooded property where a small group of homeless people stay. Ashley Pettey is facing battery and aggravated assault charges. He was being held at the Washington County jail on Friday.

At least one professor has come up with ideas for improving housing for homeless people in the area, and university officials are looking more closely at how the property where the attacks occurred is patrolled.

"We have made extra passes through that area and increased patrols in the past, but I don't have a definitive answer at this point as to what our response is going to be," university police Capt. Matt Mills said Friday.

Laura Jacobs, vice chancellor of university relations, said the university is considering buying off-road vehicles so that police can better access the area. She said the property is far from the "campus core" and student housing and that the incidents have not involved students or anyone else affiliated with the university.

Police said other homeless people told Pettey to move his sleeping area because they thought it was visible to the public. Police said Pettey resisted and used an 11-inch machete to slash two people, one of whom was treated for a life-threatening neck wound.

Mills said Pettey also was hurt during the incident and was treated for injuries Thursday night. It's not clear whether Pettey has an attorney yet.

In January, a homeless man died in an apparent beating on the same property, which is about 1,000 feet from campus. Another homeless man was arrested in the death.

The university spent about $85,000 this summer to clear the 9.5-acre property of underbrush and make it less attractive to homeless camps, university spokesman Steve Voorhees said.

But sociology professor Kevin Fitzpatrick said moving homeless people from the site wouldn't solve the problem. He said they would just set up another camp elsewhere.

Fitzpatrick, who conducts a biennial census of northwest Arkansas' homeless, has proposed a village of tiny houses for the homeless. He said he's gotten commitments for funding and to help build the transitional houses, but is still looking for land.

Student Kyle Coney was driving to baseball practice Thursday when he witnessed the aftermath of the machete attack. He said a woman was sitting in the middle of the road cradling a man who was bleeding from his neck. Coney called 911.

"She had this cloth or this shirt on his neck trying to stop the bleeding and it was just drenched in blood. When I first got there, I thought she was holding a dead body," Coney said.

Ginny Monk, news editor for The Arkansas Traveler student newspaper, said she went to the property Thursday to help a reporter who was writing about the attack. Monk said she and other students "generally don't walk over in that area."

"Students know there are homeless camps. I would say students want to see it addressed," she said. "I think there are some people who want there to be a more aggressive police effort, and some people I think want more community outreach."

For the most part, Monk said the homeless population isn't visible on campus. "They mostly keep to themselves," she said.

Coney said despite what happened Thursday, the homeless camps don't worry him.

"No, I don't feel unsafe," he said. "A lot of the homeless people here are nice and they'll talk to you. I just think it was one of those freak incidents."

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Claudia Lauer


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