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Saturday, June 6, 2020

RA room intruder was volunteer track coach – Updated

By Caleb Huisingh

This story has been updated since original publication. Updates are at the bottom.

Convicted felon Tanner Boyd, 26, was arrested for allegedly breaking into the Highland Hall dorm rooms on Nov. 12, 2016.  At the time of his arrest he was wearing clothes allegedly stolen from female residents.

Boyd, at the time, was a volunteer coach for Western’s track and field program. He had just pled guilty three days earlier to felony attempted residential burglary from a similar incident in November 2014, in which he was arrested while wearing stolen women’s clothing.

Head track and field coach Kelvin “Pee Wee” Halsell was aware of the 2014 arrest, but allowed Boyd to continue his volunteer coaching.

The 2016 break-in was raised in a recent letter to university administration by resident advisers who felt Highland Hall was unsafe, and Western was not transparent in its handling of the incident.

Neither Boyd’s affiliation with the track team, nor his former arrest were revealed to the Western community, until The Western Front inquired.

Paul Cocke, director of communications and marketing, said neither the director of athletics nor any other members of administration were made aware of the first arrest.

“In spite of knowing about the 2014 arrest, Coach Halsell allowed Tanner Boyd to continue to volunteer,” Cocke said. “As a consequence of his lack of communication and allowing [Boyd to continue], Coach Halsell was disciplined by the university.”

Boyd was immediately relieved of his volunteer duties following the Highland Hall incident, Cocke said.

2014 Incident

On Nov. 29, 2014, Boyd was apprehended by police after entering multiple women’s apartments in a complex near 32nd Street and Adams Avenue. When he was arrested, Boyd was wearing multiple bras belonging to residents of the apartment he had broken into, according to court documents.

Halsell, assistant coach Bill Roe, a former athlete coached by Boyd, and Boyd’s former employer wrote letters to attest to Boyd’s character for his trial.

Boyd pled guilty on Nov. 9, 2016, and was sentenced to 90 days in jail along with a $700 fine for the first offense.

“On a short leash”

When Boyd was arrested on campus in 2016, the only things in his possession were his running shoes and a set of Western keys. The rest of his attire, including undergarments, belonged to the female residents whose rooms he entered, according to police reports.

Halsell has known Boyd for eight years. He watched him transition from recruit, to team captain, to volunteer coach, he said.

“The person I know is a good, caring person, [and] didn’t show any signs of anything,” Halsell said.

Halsell was notified of Boyd’s arrest shortly after the 2014 incident. He said the team was notified of Boyd’s 2014 arrest prior to him returning as an assistant coach, and he did not hear any objections from team members.

Boyd’s responsibilities, which included recruitment and helping runners with workouts, did not change significantly after the first incident. However, Halsell said he was “on a short leash.”

Halsell said the keys in Boyd’s possession only gave him access to coaches offices and the equipment shed to help with practice and clerical duties. Cocke and the police report confirm this.

2016 Incident

Two university police officers were dispatched just after 2 a.m. to Highland Hall after Boyd was reported entering a resident’s room, according to police reports. He had stood in the resident’s doorway for a short while, before heading down the hallway.

Boyd walked to another stack of Highland Hall dorms, and was witnessed trying the handles of doors with female residents’ names on them, and skipping those with male residents’ names, according to police reports.

Officers found Boyd inside another female’s room, where he was looking through drawers, according to police reports.

Boyd said he didn’t know why he was at Highland, or where the clothes he arrived in were, according to the police report. His clothes, all Western track apparel except his underwear, were found by University Police later that day in nearby bushes, next to an unopened condom.

A drug screen was completed after the Highland incident which identified Boyd as having a history of drug abuse.

One student, who woke to Boyd coming out of her closet, said his “pupils appeared to be dilated.” He left after telling her he was looking for his friend’s room.

Nothing else was mentioned about the state Boyd was in, except he was unclear about why he was in the dorm rooms, and he believed he had made a huge mistake.

“I can’t believe I did this again,” Boyd said, according to police reports. “My parents are going to be disappointed with me, my coach is going to be disappointed in me.”

Halsell said Boyd is a very positive person who, from what he had gathered in talking to him, has an alcohol problem. He hopes others can use this situation to learn about the dangers of alcohol and drugs.

The team has moved on and hope for Boyd’s recovery, Halsell said.

“They’re behind him, they want him to get better.”

University Response

After Boyd’s arrest in November 2016, Athletics Director Steve Card made it mandatory for all athletics volunteers to undergo a background check, Cocke said. Before, background checks had only been administered to those performing “security sensitive duties” as determined by Western’s volunteer program.

Sophomore RA Emily Gaston wanted her residents to know what really transpired that night, so they could feel safe. She felt Western’s response to the incident downplayed its sexual nature.

“It made it sound like [clothing] was being stolen from the laundry room,” Gaston said. “They arrested him wearing my clothes and going through my makeup drawer, basically invading my personal space.”

The Western Alert on the day of the 2016 arrest mentioned only the apprehension of a suspect in “thefts of clothing” and described “a man checking unlocked doors to unoccupied rooms.”

Update 4/27 10:58 p.m.:

Paul Cocke, Western’s director of communications and marketing, offered further clarification about the university’s position in an email.

“Administrators learned about the prior arrest from Coach Halsell on Nov. 12, 2016,” Cocke said. “It also needs to be emphasized that if the coach had notified the Athletics director of Boyd’s 2014 arrest as soon as he knew about it, Boyd at that point on definitely would not have been allowed to continue as a volunteer at Western.”

Read the documents referenced in this story and see additional photos from the police report here:

Highland Hall break-in: The documents

1 COMMENT

  1. A few questions: Why background checks only for volunteers? Why not for ALL staff members? How many other convicted felons have positions of responsibility at WWU? Why does the track coach still have a job? When is his disciplinary hearing? Are the retroactively doing background checks on all the current employees and volunteers? How about the disciplinary hearings for those staff members that tried to cover this up by downplaying the seriousness of the breaking and the staff connection?

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