Two male college students from Alabama’s Troy University, were arrested for an alleged sexual assault against a 19-year-old female in Panama City Beach, Florida during the city’s legendary spring break. Law enforcement officials report that the alleged incident occurred in broad daylight on a crowded beach.
Ryan Austin Calhoun, 23, and Delonte Martistee, 22, were both charged on Friday with sexual battery by multiple perpetrators. Sheriff Frank McKeithen said that the victim was attacked “gang-rape-style” by three men in an assault that was captured on video. An unidentified male suspect of college-age remains at large, and authorities are searching diligently for this other suspect.
Reportedly, a cell-phone video of the attack shows the men surrounding the incapacitated female seated in a chair. Witnesses report that the victim tried to remove the attackers hands from her genital area unsuccessfully. The sheriff said that the incident was not reported to authorities despite hundreds of onlookers at the time of the attack. Sadly, bikini-clad college students are milling all around the site of the attack. At one point, a cheer is overheard but it is not apparent why. The Troy, Alabama police department, discovered the video during a local shooting investigation and forwarded it to Panama City authorities immediately.
Local authorities determined the assault took place behind the Spinnaker Beach Club between March 10 and March 12. Troy University was reportedly on spring break during this period. The victim remembers very little about the incident, and believes that she might have been drugged.
Troy University has subsequently suspended both students, and Martistee, a star college track athlete in the triple jump, was removed from the Troy track team. After the arrest occurred in Troy, Alabama, the two students were to be extradited to Bay County, Florida where the crime occurred.
This attack occurred conspicuously soon after a shooting incident in Panama City Beach left seven youth wounded at a spring-break house party. Local authorities have tried to crack down on criminal activity, as well as under-age college-student drinking. One 2015 change in bar business hours, has all bars closing by 2:00 AM versus the normal 3:00 AM. Even this effort leaves very little time for deputies to police the crowds and clean up before a new day starts. Part of the policing difficulty comes from the massive influx of people into a fairly limited area of the city. Not only are spring-break festivities attended by college students, authorities report that non-student elements descend upon the town looking for easy targets for exploitation.
The sheer volume of college-age visitors makes supervision difficult-to-impossible with the limited manpower that police and sheriff departments have on duty. The town of only 8,000 actual residents expects over 400,000 college students to flood its hotels and cash registers. Local business routinely expect as much as $180 million in spring-break-specific revenue each year.
According to Harris Interactive, a research company, the spring break business generates over $208 billion dollars annually with participation by over 16 millions students worldwide. There is so much at stake for local businesses that the Panama City Beach Visitors Bureau spent over $400,000 on a marketing effort to entice would-be college spring-breakers to its town.
Glitzy campaigns do little to assuage the concerns of parents, whose children insist on college spring-break trips to the beach. It is this grisly, spring-break sexual assault, that ended with the arrest of two college men, that has the community and parents alike concerned.
By Chris Marion