This story is outdated. Updated 12/3/13 here
Campus police on Thursday arrested Mary Carter, 39, and charged her with five criminal counts related to a series of campus break-ins that culminated when she was wrestled to the ground and detained by biology instructor Nira Clark. Carter is being held in the Las Colinas Detention Facility in Santee on $100,000 bail, according to the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department. She is charged with two felonies and three misdemeanors, including robbery, burglary, possession of burglary tools and assault on a school employee.
Carter pepper sprayed Clark when the instructor returned to her office momentarily to retrieve something for her class, according to acting campus police chief Robert Sanchez. Clark fought through the pepper spray and restrained the intruder with a headlock while a passerby summoned police. Clark was burned by the pepper spray, Sanchez said, but not seriously injured.
Sanchez said Carter forced her way into several lockers in the women’s locker room near the gym before burglarizing at least two faculty offices. Dr. Sylvia Garcia-Navarrete’s office was also burgled, said Sanchez. Clark apprehended Carter around 12:30 p.m., according to Garcia-Navarrete.
Sanchez said when confronted Carter would not surrender Clark’s belongings.
“A struggle ensued inside of the office when Ms. Clark tried to get her property back from the suspect,” he said. “(Clark) was able to fight her way through the pepper spray and delayed her enough so that when police arrived we were able to arrest the suspect.”
Garcia-Navarrete said Clark “was one tough cookie.”
“The thief pepper sprayed Nira,” she said, “but that didn’t stop Nira from putting her in a headlock.”
Garcia-Navarrete said campus employees were shaken up, but relieved that no one was seriously injured.
“I’m glad the lady didn’t get away with our stuff,” she said. “My things were taken when I was teaching during the 11 o’clock hour. My door was found open by our instructional assistant before noon, but I didn’t realize my things were gone until I got the call from the police officer.”
Sanchez said the episode demonstrates that the college may have to increase security for professors’ offices. Metal shields known as hasps were in the past installed on some office doors in front of the lock mechanism, he said, but most have been removed.
“Our recommendation would be to install those on all of the doors,” he said. “That’s a perfect reason why something like that needs to be in place, to prevent somebody from using a screwdriver to gain entry into an office.”SWC Public Information Officer Lillian Leopold said the incident is a reminder that students and college employees need to be vigilant and report suspicious activities to campus police.