Students stunned by Brighton attack

by Beacon Staff • November 9, 2005

A man wielding a stun gun assaulted a 22-year-old Brighton woman in her apartment on Oct. 26, after following her from the Washington Square T stop in Brookline, according to Boston Police Department Spokesman Michael McCarthy. The incident has caused concern among area students.

"I feel less safe now," said junior film major Meredith Snider, who lives near the area where the attack occurred. "I'm going to be more cautious of my surroundings when I'm out at night."

The victim, Susanna Richardson, got off of the T at the Washington Square stop on the Green C line in Brookline and then proceeded to walk to her home on Colliston Road in Brighton, where she was attacked, police said.

McCarthy said the identity of the suspect is unknown, but the incident is under investigation. The Brookline Police Department was not immediately available for comment.

Richardson told WHDH-TV last month that the attacker assaulted her with the stun gun as she entered her apartment. She said the man ran when he saw Richardson's roommate. Richardson described the pain of the stun gun as worse than touching an electric fence, but was left with only minor burns on her back.

Director of Public Safety William McCabe said a stun gun works by delivering an electric shock through wired barbs that attach to the victim's skin. He noted that the devices have occasionally caused fatal injuries.

McCabe said that although stun guns are illegal in Massachusetts, they are legal in many New England states. They can also be bought online from companies like Amherst, N.H.-based Information Unlimited. The Web page features a number of "crime protection" products, such as a 100,000 volt "Curved Stun Gun," which is sold for less than $30.

According to Christy Letizia, the Off-Campus Student Services coordinator, about 65 Emerson undergrads live in Brookline, and 40 live in Brighton.

McCabe urged students to stay in well-lit areas, avoid walking alone at night and trust their instincts.

"If they sense they are being followed, they are more than likely correct," McCabe said. "As most students carry cell phones nowadays, they should immediately call 911."

McCabe said 911 calls are directed to the State Police, and students should give their exact location to the dispatcher. McCabe also encouraged self-defense.

"A finger or key in the eye can be a very disabling injury that lasts long enough for a victim to break loose," McCabe said. "Male attackers are very vulnerable to a knee or punch in the groin."

McCabe advised students to familiarize themselves with personal safety and common sense tips via pamphlets available in the Emerson Public Safety office.

"There is an old adage," McCabe said. "The best defense is a strong offense."

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