Home / Spring 2012 / 2012-04-05 / Umbrella involved in student’s arrest

Umbrella involved in student’s arrest

 William Mathews didn’t expect his Friday evening plans, a trip to a local coffee house, would land him in a jailhouse and cost him $1,000.

Mathews, a senior psychology major, was arrested Friday evening at 7:40 pm, and charged with theft by taking.  The item he was charged with stealing: a large black and white striped VSU umbrella.

 According to the VSUPD police report, arresting officer Yolanda Calhoun saw Mathews taking an umbrella that was not his. Mathews disputes those facts.

 “I picked up an umbrella that was part of a stack at the cross walk at Baytree and Oak,” Mathews said. “I put the umbrella back down and walked across the street with my friends.”

 Mathews said that after he crossed the street, he turned back around and saw that Calhoun, who was sitting at the red light, was on her police radio.

 Mathews and his friends were walking across the Oak Street parking lot when they saw a different VSU police car pulling into the lot.

 According to Mathews, the second police car was driving furiously through the parking lot, swerving around, cutting close to cars.

 “We all kinda scattered out a little bit,” Mathews said.

 He ran toward Sustella, partly because of the rain, but mostly because he was freaking out.

 Mathew said that this second VSU police officer followed him to Sustella. When he got there, Mathews approached the officer to ask why he was being chased.   The police officer said that running could get him shot, because he looked suspicious, Mathews said.

 In a matter of minutes, three more VSUPD officers arrived, surrounding Mathews, he said.

 He asked what he was charged with.  Mathews was told he was being charged with theft by taking.

 “I didn’t have the umbrella on me,” he told the officers. “What you charged me with, I don’t have.”

 One of Mathews’ friends, Lee Hillmon, a 20-year-old freshman music education major, backed up Mathews’ version of events.

“She watched him grab it, watched him put it back and watched him walk across the street,” Hillmon said.

“As I stood there, I was embarrassed,” Mathews said.  “I have never been arrested. There are no charges on my record. I don’t even smoke, because my father died of lung cancer, when I was 13.”

When Calhoun arrived at the scene, she put Mathews in handcuffs, put him in the police car, and drove him to the Lowndes County Jail.

When the Lowndes County officers questioned Mathews about what took place, they joked about why Mathews was arrested.

“They said it was petty,” Mathews said.  “They couldn’t believe I was arrested for this.”

Mathews said he was released five hours later on $1,000 bail. He walked to McDonalds on Patterson Street around 1 a.m. in the morning to call someone to come pick him up.

A court date was set for May 8. Mathews plans to fight the charges.

“If I really wanted to steal an umbrella, I could have taken that thousand dollars and bought all of the umbrellas in the bookstore,” Mathews said. “I didn’t have to steal one.”

 The arresting officer was contacted by the Spectator, but was not available for a comment at the time of publication.

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14 comments

  1. William Matthews: you ought to sue the Valdosta Police Department for wrongful arrest and at least get your $1000 back if not more. If you need a good lawyer I can recommend a couple.

  2. I think every student on the vsu campus should go to the dollar store and buy a cheap umbrella and lean them against every door, light pole and bench on campus in protest of this action by VSU police. The officer who made the shooting statement as well as any other officer involved in this situation needs to be fired immediately. We cannot tolerate this on our campus. This is not the wild wild west folks. Running does not indicate suspicious, picking up an item on the street is not illegal.

  3. If she saw that he put the umbrella down then why take him in ? Just ask him what he intended to do . As a Mother of a student I pray that all will get to a point of talking to each other . Don’t people talk any more ? Is the law just for people with money ? Is this a country of the free and the brave ? Why is it so threating to people that they can’t talk any more . We as people of the United States should stan by each other . There is a lots of thing out there to worry about than haveing the law to shot our young people over anumbrella. Did he look like a terast ? Did he have one of those faces that I’m out to get you ? No as I’m to understand that he is trying to better him self and make a difference in the world . I think that the school and the students are long over dew with getting to gether and talking . It shoulden matter what walk of life any one comes from talk ther people too !

  4. What a bunch of sheep. You guys haven’t even heard the whole story. The kid was obviously doing something more than messing with an umbrella to draw the attention of a officer. His story doesn’t add up. You guys get one side of a story and all of a sudden you are passing judgement.

    • I think the young man should sue the school over that. That cop should be terminated from her job. Secondly in response to Sheep Herder if there was a witness that went along with what the man said that honestly adds up. At my school the campus police take themselves way too seriously as well. These students have enough to worry about besides some power mad police officers arresting someone without justification.

  5. Really? Seriously? How dumb! I hope he fights the charges and I hope she is reprimanded. It really makes me sick to know we live in a society where a group of people have so much control over us. I know we need laws and government, but the system is flawed. Just because someone is an officer of the law does not make them perfect, nor does it mean they are innocent themselves. In fact, of all the officers I personally know, I can tell you countless stories about them thinking they are ‘above the law’ and purposely do these types of actions against the innocent just for ‘fun’. This may have nothing to do with this particular case, but it sounds like the guy clearly didn’t deserve to be arrested. The officer should have used common sense, which she apparently does not possess.

  6. That is really pitiful. Only in Valdosta-yet South Georgia… The charges need to be dropped and the cop needs to be reprimanded. Thankfully, I live in a normal area..

  7. I think officers are the least educated yet hold one of the most powerful positions. Mr. Matthews can fight the charges all he wants but bottom line is he went to jail and posted bond. Even if he wins in court he is still out jail time and dollars.

  8. VSU Police are a bunch of morons. You have to GIVE respect to GET respect; it doesn’t just come attached to your gun and badge. “Running could get you shot” are you SERIOUS? We’re not even talking about a violent crime here! Anyone who feels like writing letters/protesting find me on facebook

    Spectator, I want to hear the cops’ side of the story.

  9. I think that this arrest should be looked into deeper. Police know when it is applicable to arrest someone, and when it is not. From the story given above, I would argue that this was not a reason to chase someone and arrest them. Also, I honestly know no one who leaves their umbrella beside a crosswalk in the rain?? Sounds to me like a “Bait Umbrella” type set up (haha).

  10. So imagine applying this situation to the most recent gun law they want to pass allowing students to carry concealed weapon on Campus………What would happen, this officer clearly sees this student as threat ended up not being and in her adrenaline sees this student who has a right to carry on gun on campus and instead of and I quote ” The police officer said that running could get him shot, because he looked suspicious, Mathews said.” she pulls the trigger regardless. What were we talking about….Oh yea a umbrella that wasn’t stolen….

    • Going along with the gun law, this cop had her gun no matter what. The student didn’t. The gun law info doesn’t apply.

    • And besides that as we’ve just seen in the news not having a gun with you doesn’t seem to matter when it comes to some one else who shoots first an asks questions later and claims self defense. The cop that arrested him was being a complete idiot. It could have gone further very easily considering how far it got pushed by this cop on a power trip.

    • I think every individual should be able to defend themselves from aggressors, whether criminal individuals acting on their own or criminal individuals acting on behalf of large criminal racketeering organizations (eg. police departments).

      This story is going to be hard to understand for those still operating under the delusion that cops exist to “serve” us and “protect our rights”. They seem to violate them 10 times for every 1 they help someone. This is what our 60 dollar parking tickets go to fund- overgrown bullies who have nothing better to do than prey on college students.

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