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The Daily Citizen
Friday, July 27, 2007 5:56 PM CDT
By Warren Watkins, The Daily Citizen
Harding University did nothing wrong, school responds
A former Harding University student who has filed separate lawsuits against the school and two of its students has also run afoul of Searcy police.
Patrick Duane Thompson, 35, filed a federal racial discrimination lawsuit claiming he was suspended after being accused of improper behavior with a female Chinese student. He also filed a civil suit against two students. Thompson has been involved in 11 incidents involving the Searcy Police Department in the last 16 months as well.
Suit against Harding
In a complaint filed in 2006, Thompson named Harding University and David Collins, the assistant vice president and dean of students, as defendants, accusing them of racial discrimination by suspending him as a student.
Thompson enrolled at Harding in the fall of 2004, hoping to prepare himself for mission work in China. In December 2005, after obtaining permission from two Harding representatives, Thompson invited a female Chinese student, Sha “Vivian” Yin, to his apartment, he claimed. Harding policy prohibits students of opposite gender from spending the night together.
A 21-page undated document, which Thompson claims was written by Harding students Nathan Epley and Meagan Lunn, purported to give evidence of an inappropriate relationship between Thompson and Yin. According to Thompson, Epley and Lunn distributed copies of the document on campus and later apologized to Thompson for some of the allegations in the document in an undated one-page letter.
Epley and Lunn met with Harding officials to share the same false information, Thompson claims.
On Jan. 25, 2006, Collins prohibited Thompson from having Chinese students in his apartment or car, Thompson said, and on Feb. 24, 2006, Collins suspended Thompson until the fall of 2006.
Thompson claimed he was not allowed to take final exams for his courses, while a white student who was suspended for fighting was allowed to take exams. Thompson applied for readmission to Harding in the fall of 2006 but was rejected, he said. When Harding banned him from setting foot on the campus, Thompson lost his job with Domino’s Pizza, he claimed.
The actions of Harding officials have caused him to be depressed, Thompson told Collins, and according to records supplied to The Daily Citizen by Thompson, a doctor at the Searcy Medical Center prescribed Lexapro, Xanax and Ambien to Thompson on Feb. 21, 2006.
Thompson told the doctor that in the past he had suffered a broken back and had been in the military.
On March 13, 2006, Harding Registrar Ron Finley informed Collins by letter that Thompson “suffers from a high level of anxiety in regard to his academic work.”
The suit requests damages for mental anguish and just compensation. Thompson said he is seeking more than $1 million in his suit against the university.
The public information office at Harding University has issued a press release concerning Thompson and his lawsuit against the university.
“Because the Patrick Thompson situation involves a student disciplinary action and because it involves pending litigation, Harding cannot comment on the allegations made by Mr. Thompson,” the statement said.
Thompson’s claims of discrimination are false, according to the statement, and “Harding did nothing wrong.”
Harding treated Thompson “fairly and consistently within the framework of Harding’s established policies,” according to the statement.
Suit against Epley and Lunn
Little Rock attorney Shawn Childs, who represents Thompson in civil matters, said a second lawsuit has been filed against Epley and Lunn alleging defamation and libel. Watson Bell, an attorney in Searcy, represents the two in the suit, which was filed in White County Circuit Court.
Childs said Epley and Lunn do not dispute writing the 21-page document or the apology, but an answer filed by Bell denied that Epley and Lunn met with Harding officials and denied the two wrote or distributed the 21-page document.
On March 9, 2006, Thompson called the SPD to ask questions regarding an incident which involved Thompson, two Harding students and the university.
Then two days later, Thompson called the SPD to report an incident at Eaton soccer field on Higginson Street in Searcy in which Yin, 23, a female, wanted to report that Thomas Pang had driven through the athletic field parking lot.
Yin said Pang did not threaten or harass her, but that “she didn’t feel comfortable around Chinese people right now,” according to a police report.
On May 25, 2006, Thompson called the SPD to report an incident of terroristic threatening by a Searcy man. Thompson told police he had gone to the court clerk’s office to get some documents about a man that was dating a friend of his. That man’s father later called Thompson, Thompson claimed, and told him he was watching Thompson at the clerk’s office and that “if he tried to do anything to his son he would hurt him.”
Then the next day, the man Thompson had claimed was watching and threatening him reported he and his family were being harassed by Thompson.
On June 30, 2006, Thompson reported two bicycles were stolen from outside his apartment.
On Oct. 10, 2006, Thompson appeared at the SPD with a box containing 45 rounds of .40 caliber Smith and Wesson ammunition. Thompson told officers the ammunition was old and requested it be destroyed. The items were taken into evidence by the police.
On Dec. 24, 2006, Thompson called the SPD to say he was being harassed. Officers arrived to find he was not being harassed but “just wanted to know what his options were.”
On May 18, Thompson once again came to the police department “to ask questions about the laws regulating picketing in the state of Arkansas,” according to a police report. When an SPD officer explained the laws to him, Thompson became “agitated and argumentative” and was warned about being belligerent.
Arrested when he continued the behavior, Thompson was told his car would be towed from the police parking lot, and he told police a loaded handgun was in the car. Thompson, who had an expired concealed weapon permit from North Carolina, was charged with disorderly conduct and carrying a prohibited weapon.
On June 1, Thompson brought papers to the police department that he found in his car after getting it out of the impound lot, including an Arkansas Statement of Rights.
On June 12, Thompson was arrested at his apartment at 4:14 p.m. for failing to vacate the premises after falling behind on rent payments.
But by 6:45 p.m., Thompson was back in his apartment and calling police to report suspicious activity there.
Officers did a walk-through of the apartment to verify no one was there, then left.
An affidavit for a warrant of arrest filed by the managers of Country Meadows apartments June 6 showed Thompson was behind $930 in rent and refused to vacate the premises.
Thompson is due to appear in district court Thursday to enter a plea on the failure to vacate charges and Sept. 4 for a trial on the charges of disorderly conduct and carrying a prohibited weapon. Thompson has posted bonds on both charges.