By David Lazenby
Auburn police on Saturday arrested two Auburn University transit system workers accused of sexually assaulting an 18-year-old AU student.
Tony Martin Patillo, 51, of Columbus, Ga. and James Don Johnson, Jr. 32, of Auburn are charged with first degree rape and first degree sodomy.
Patillo is also charged with four counts of public lewdness.
Both men have been taken to Lee County Jail. Bond for Patillo was set at 7,0oo. Johnson’s bond has been set at 5,000.
Patillo was arrested after several witnesses reported late Friday night that they saw a male exposing himself while standing over a female in the 700 block of Aspen Heights Lane, which is located in a neighborhood adjacent to the
AMF Auburn Lanes bowling alley on Opelika Road.
Responding officers located Patillo near the roadway and detained him. However, according to the Auburn police department, officers were unable to locate the female at the time of the initial report.
According to Auburn police, further investigation determined that a female, who reportedly appeared to be incapacitated, got on a bus at Magnolia Avenue that is operated by Tiger Ten shuttle, an extension of the university’s Tiger Transit shuttle service.
Tiger Ten Shuttle operates from 10:30 p.m. to 3:30 a.m. on the weekends.
Police say while on the bus, the victim was sexually assaulted by Patillo, an employee of First Transit, the company contracted by AU to provide late night transportation service for AU students.
The investigation further determined that Johnson, who was driving the bus, engaged in actions to perpetuate the crime while Patillo was in the rear of the bus assaulting the victim.
Patillo later exited the bus near Aspen Heights Lane with the female victim; it was at that point he was observed by passersby standing over her.
“Our top concern is the well-being of the victim, and we cannot stress in strong enough terms our shock and distress over this despicable act,” The university stated in a press release. “We immediately provided support and all available resources to the victim and continue to do so.”
Auburn Police Lt. Clarence Stewart said the crime remains under investigation. He urged anyone with information to call detectives at 334-501-3140 or the 24 hour non-emergency number 334-501-3100. Callers may also provide information anonymously on the tip line 334-246-1391.
“This is a very unfortunate incident,” said Stewart who added that authorities highly recommend that young people have someone to accompany them when they go out at night.
“It’s always better to have someone accompany you, no matter what,” he said.
The statement from AU said the university’s relationship with First Transit is being evaluated.
“The contractor is required to conduct thorough background checks on its employees,” the statement said, adding that both men have been terminated by First Transit.
Stewart applauded those who reported what they saw late Friday night.
“I’m proud of how the community responded,” he said about those who alerted police. Stewart added the outcome of the incident might have been much different without the public’s involvement.