Western Washington University Police have identified a suspect in the lewd conduct case in which a man was reported to have masturbated in his car on campus earlier this month.
A Pierce County man was identified through photo lineup by a witness, University Police Chief Darin Rasmussen said. He was issued a criminal citation and court summons on suspicion of indecent exposure, Rasmussen said.
The man said he was visiting Western on business to work with a university department and denied the allegations, Rasmussen said.
A Western Alert was sent out around 1:50 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 2, after University Police received a report of a middle-aged man masturbating in his car in the 12A parking lot near the Fairhaven dorms.
The car was described as an older model silver BMW with a partial plate of Washington BBS57, according to the alert. The man was described as white with silver-white hair and stubble on his face, middle-aged, possibly having blue eyes and wearing a green zip-up sweater, according to the alert.
“A man told police he was sitting in his car talking to a friend when he saw another man in a silver BMW drive up and park next to him. The other man was wearing no pants and was masturbating. The suspect looked up and saw the reporting party, then immediately drove off toward Bill McDonald Parkway,” the alert said.
The incident was reported to University Police around 12:44 p.m., according to the alert, about an hour before the alert was sent out.
Western has been criticized by students before for the timing and effectiveness of Western Alerts. The alerts are written by Western’s Office of Communications in coordination with University Police.
Western’s director of communications and marketing, Paul Cocke, said Western tries to send out verified information quickly.
“We seek to send out Western Alerts as soon as possible but it is important to note that all information is not instantaneously known to University Police,” Cocke said in an email. “They must investigate and verify information provided before an alert can be issued. That can take time.”
Rasmussen said in this case, the police had to determine credibility and assess what details to include in the alert before sending it.
Cocke said Western sends out more alerts than other public universities.
This story will be updated if more information becomes available.
Updated 12:55 p.m. on Feb. 12 with information about University Police identifying the suspect.