The actions of a 23-year-old Erie resident recently put Mercy-hurst administrators and late-night campus walkers alike on edge. John J. Durney, a 2009 graduate of Mercyhurst North East,faces four separate criminal charges for stalking women, attempt-ing to kidnap three of them and evading police in a high-speedchase around the college’s campus on April 2.Durney’s alleged creeping spree, in which police say he twicefollowed Mercyhurst female students with a large knife, onceagain raised awareness of campus safety.“We were on red alert,” said Robert Kuhn, chief of Police and Safety.
The rst incident came in December, shortly before students
left for Christmas break. A student was leaving CVS at East38th Street and Pine Avenue when a man—allegedly Durney— approached her with a knife. The woman managed to escape toher car and lock the doors.Police accuse Durney of striking again 10 days later, this timein the 2800 block of State Street, about a mile from campus. A woman fought off Durney, who police say was in possession of a knife, and made it to her nearby apartment.On March 19, investigators say Durney confronted a woman at West Ninth and Myrtle streets. A criminal complaint the woman
led states he told her she was sexy, followed her in his green
Hyundai Sonata and threatened her with a knife if she didn’t getinto his vehicle. The most recent Mercyhurst campus incident took place March27 near Warde Hall. Campus security footage showed a green carchasing a female student through the Performing Arts Centerparking lot toward her dorm, Kuhn said.
By Ethan Magoc
She, too, escaped unharmed.“For me, it was a nightmare,” said Kuhn, who worked for Eriepolice for more than 30 years. “It brought back memories of trying to catch rapists. Guys like this, they get more adventurousas it goes on if they’re not caught.” The frightening episodes brought about frequent email updates fromKuhn and Vice President of Student Life Gerard Tobin, Ph.D. They continued to stress walking in pairs or calling a policeescort if traversing campus late at night. Kuhn’s April 1 email went so far as to offer rides to inebriated students, as well.“Don’t be reluctant to call because you may have been drinking and fear consequences,” he wrote. “In this instance, we are only interested in getting you safely to your residence hall.”Beyond the warnings and transportation offerings, adminis-trators said they cannot, practically speaking, overhaul campussecurity procedures as a prevention measure.“The reality is we can’t keep everyone safe all the time,” saidLaura Zirkle, assistant vice president of Student Life. “It wouldbe dishonest to say we can.”Still, Zirkle commended Police and Safety’s dedication in appre-hending Durney.
At about 4 a.m. on April 2, ofcer Jerry Devine was making
his last few patrol rounds as a campus security guard. It was nearBriggs Avenue that he spotted a green car matching the descrip-tion released after the March 27 incident.He pulled in front of Durney’s car, which then backed up andbegan speeding away. Devine followed but initially lost the pur-suit. He spotted the car again a few minutes later and continuedthe chase.It reached speeds up to 60 mph on Briggs and the surrounding streets, according to Kuhn, who believes Durney’s unfamiliarity with the campus’s nearby neighborhood led to his downfall.“He must have been a little disoriented because he eventually pulled into a cul-de-sac,” he said.Devine trapped Durney on East 40th Street near the WayneStreet Townhouses and, knowing he was likely armed with a
knife, called for backup. Erie police arrived ve minutes later and
took Durney, once again in possession of a meat cleaver, intocustody.He admitted to the two campus incidents during police ques-tioning.“It was just amazing that we caught him,” Zirkle said. “He(Devine) was very tenacious about it.”Devine joined the Erie police force as a patrolman last week.
Details on Durney’s background are unclear. Ofcials at Mer
cyhurst North East conrmed he graduated from the school’s
culinary arts program in August 2009, but Brian Stahlsmith, aninstructor in the program, declined comment regarding Durney’stime there.Durney, of the 1100 block of East 38th Street, is an Oil City native. He was released Friday from Erie County Prison onbonds totaling $245,000. District Judge Tom Robie has requiredhim to live in Oil City with his parents, stay at least two milesfrom Mercyhurst’s main campus and seek psychological coun-seling.He faces preliminary hearings before Robie on April 21 andMay 27.
board ofcersbusy planningimprovementsFormer stafferNell Hardycontinues to ght
Ecodemia offerstips on reducingimpact, celebrating
No. 4 men’slacrosse teammakes nalplayoff push
Page 2Page 4Pages 5-8Page 11