Pillow attack at Naval Academy gets out of hand

January 09, 1993|By JoAnna Daemmrich | JoAnna Daemmrich,Staff Writer

The Naval Academy has charged four male midshipmen with assault after an investigation into a pre-football game pillow attack that left two female midshipmen with bruises and a black eye.

During the week before the Dec. 5 Army-Navy football game, dozens of midshipmen pummeled each other with pillows in the Bancroft Hall dormitory. The attack on the two women, which apparently got out of control, was the only one that resulted in injuries, academy officials said.

They did not know whether the bruises and black eye were the resultof punches or sharply snapped pillow cases, academy officials said.

Even though the injuries were described as slight, the commandant of midshipmen found enough evidence to bring administrative charges against the four male students. An investigative hearing has not been scheduled yet.

"We take any incident such as this very seriously . . . seriously enough to investigate," said Cmdr. Mike John, an academy spokesman.

Academy officials declined to name the midshipmen involved in the incident, described by students and academy sources as a "Mack truck attack." The prank is supposed to make victims feel like they'vebeen hit head-on by a truck. In a surprise attack, three or four midshipmen go into a classmate's room, shine a flashlight on the intended victim's face and then pummel him or her with pillows.

"This seems to be youthful exuberance during Army-Navy week that allegedly went beyond the bounds of what should have occurred," Commander John said.

If found guilty of the assault charge, the accused midshipmen -- a senior and three sophomores -- could receive demerits, lose privileges or even be dismissed from the academy.

The military college investigated whether the female midshipmen,both sophomores, were singled out because of their sex but found no evidence to support such a conclusion, Commander John said. "There's no reason to believe this is sexual harassment or a gender issue," he said. The pillow pummeling did not violate the Naval Academy's "no touching" rule, which prohibits students from slapping, punching or otherwise harassing each other if one objects, he said.

The academy is still haunted by an Army-Navy week incident in 1989, when Gwen Dreyer, 19, a sophomore from Encinitas, Calif., was dragged from her room and handcuffed to a urinal. Male midshipmen jeered and took pictures.

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