Hanover, NH- Taylor Woolrich, a 20-year-old Dartmouth College student, has expressed fear for her safety due to multiple experiences with a long-term stalker and is challenging the college’s no-weapons policy on the campus in hopes of being allowed to carry a concealed weapon.
Woolrich, a Dartmouth junior who lived in San Diego before attending the college, wishes to carry a concealed weapon because she says she’s been stalked by 67-year-old Richard Bennett for the past four years, beginning when she was working at a cafe while still in high school. Woolrich said that Bennett’s behavior quickly became alarming: Frequent visits from Bennett became day-long stakeouts where the man would follow her home from work.
The video above shows Woolrich’s speech at a Students for Concealed Carry conference in Washington, DC. Woolrich explained that she had initially tried to convince herself the Bennett’s advances were not malicious, but realized that his stalking was relentless.
“It escalated rather quickly. Coming into the coffee shop every day turned into sitting there for my entire shift. Getting onto the highway behind me at the entrance next to my house whenever I was coming into work at 5 a.m. Being there until I closed, and then following me home, to where I had to pretend to stop at the grocery store, things like that.”
Woolrich said Bennett went on to threaten her friends and showed up to events, such as scholarship pageants, that she was attending.
Woolrich described an incident where “he attacked, well attempted to attack, my then boyfriend in high school when I was 17 years old, and told him he should never speak to me again, and threw hot coffee in his face.”
Woolrich filed a restraining order against Bennett, but she said it didn’t amount to very much protection. According to Woolrich, Bennett was standing outside of the cafe the day after she filed the restraining order and chased her back to her car.
Later on, Woolrich said, Bennett took to social media such as Facebook and LinkedIn to stalk her during her first two years attending Dartmouth. She said he hired a private investigator to find her and her family. She said “after 18 months of not seeing this man, I got back to my parents’ house at 1:30 a.m., flying in from Dartmouth, and at 8:30 a.m., the next morning, he was knocking on my front door.”
Bennett was arrested after Woolrich called the police. Following Bennett’s arrest, a search turned up “what they like to call a rape kit in the back of his car,” Woolrich said. “It consisted of a sweatshirt, firewood, maps of the area, duct tape, a rope tied into a slip noose, hunting knives and various other items.”
While in prison, Bennett was interviewed by San Diego news station News10. Bennett claimed he was visiting Woolrich’s parents, who had relocated to avoid Bennett, not the young woman. Bennett abruptly ended the interview when asked about the “rape kit”.
August 2014 marks the month of the expiration of Woolrich’s restraining order, as well as a court appearance from Bennett. Woolrich hopes to be authorized by Dartmouth to carry a concealed weapon this fall when she returns to the campus. She noted that the safety and security department at Dartmouth knows about her situation and “were sympathetic“, but have not allowed her to violate the weapons policy at the college. She said “There’s no option. There’s no one to go to. They don’t want to hear my case.” Woolrich pointed out that the school’s security measures fall short.
Woolrich said she was told by Dartmouth security to request an escort, but she argued that “I’ve done this, and I’ve gotten responses such as, ‘You can’t keep calling us all the time,’ or ‘You can only call after 9 p.m.’ I’d like to say that my stalker doesn’t really care what time it is. He doesn’t care whether it’s light or dark, if I’m on the east coast or the west coast or another country.”
In a statement, Dartmouth maintained that “The safety and security of all Dartmouth students is a top priority. Any student who reports being stalked is provided with individualized attention and heightened protection. If there are improvements to our security services that we can make, we will.”
Dartmouth spokesman Justin Anderson said of their weapons policy, “It’s strictly prohibited and we are not in the habit of making exceptions.”
Woolrich argued that “Dartmouth thinks banning weapons will keep students safe, but a gun ban isn’t going to stop him from attacking me.”
“If Dartmouth, a restraining order, and law enforcement can’t guarantee my safety, then I’m asking for the right to do so,” she said.