By Alan Cherry and Jeff Craig
A 33-year-old former student is undergoing a mental health evaluation after confronting Dr. Jean-Noel Thompson and attacking another walker on the Lunsford Trail Aug. 25.
ACU Police Chief Jimmy Ellison said the suspect, a resident of University Park, was carrying a baseball bat as he approached the walkers shortly before 6 a.m. Abilene Police and the ACU Police Department have not released the suspect’s name, and he cannot be charged with a crime until the mental health evaluation is complete. Ellison said the man also attacked a staff member who was walking with his wife. Police have not released their names.
Ellison said neither Thompson, vice president for student life and dean of students, nor the other walker was targeted in the attack. He emphasized the incident was random.
“I want to express that this was an isolated incident,” Ellison said. “It was not something that is a part of trend.”
Thompson also said the incident was not premeditated.
“There was no way that this person would have known that I would have been at that particular place at that particular time,” Thompson said. “That’s why I don’t feel targeted.”
A resident of University Park initially called ACU Police early that morning and reported a man with a baseball bat at the complex acting aggressively.
As police were looking for him, the suspect left UP and encountered Thompson on the trail, Ellison said.
After a brief verbal encounter with Thompson, the suspect approached and attacked the ACU staff member and his wife. The staff member tackled the man and subdued him. Thompson ran to the staff member’s aid and tossed his cell phone to the man’s wife, who then called police. Thompson said the man appeared confused and angry and was babbling in a threatening manner.
“Clearly, there was some aggression and confusion,” Thompson said. “I know enough to know when someone is confused.”
University Park Village Director Patricia Hail-Jackson said the suspect is a resident of the University Park Apartments and a former ACU student who took classes this summer.
Only students, faculty and staff are allowed to live in University Park, however, recent former students may sometimes continue to live in the apartments for a short while after finishing classes, Hail-Jackson said.
Ellison said his officers always pay close attention to security on the trail and will continue to maintain a close watch.
“When the school year starts we always increase our presence on the Lunsford Trail,” Ellison said. “Since this event, we have tried to be more mindful of making our presence more obvious.”
Thompson said he had no animosity towards the suspect, and he said he hopes things work out for him.
“I am personally in prayer for this person and his family,” Thompson said. “In my role, I will always do whatever it takes to protect this community.”
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