Students suspended after charges in beach sex assault
PANAMA CITY BEACH, Florida (AP) — Two Alabama college students have been suspended after authorities discovered a cellphone video that allegedly shows them sexually assaulting a woman at a Florida beach while a large crowd of spring-break revelers watches.
Bay County Sheriff Frank McKeithen described the video as “very, very graphic” and called it the “most disgusting, sickening thing” he had ever seen. He said the footage shows several men surrounding an incapacitated woman on a beach chair near the Spinaker Beach Club in Panama City Beach.
The victim told authorities that she thought she had been drugged at the time, and she did not remember the incident well enough to report it.
Both students attended Troy University.
Delonte Martistee, a 22-year-old senior from Bainbridge, Georgia, and Ryan Calhoun, a 23-year-old sophomore from Mobile, Alabama, were arrested Thursday in Alabama on Florida warrants. Martistee remained in jail Sunday in Panama City. Calhoun was released on bond.
The sheriff’s office said additional arrests are expected.
Court records do not list attorneys for either man. Calls to a phone listing for Calhoun were not immediately returned Sunday. A phone listing for Martistee’s mother rang unanswered.
Authorities have released few details of the assault, which they say happened sometime between March 10 and March 12 but was only recently uncovered while university police were investigating a shooting.
The sheriff’s office released a short video of the crowd they said was present at the time. The recording shows a seemingly normal day at the beach for dozens of bikini-clad spring breakers goofing off and standing around talking about Instagram. At one point, a few people cheer, but it’s unclear why.
Sheriff’s spokeswoman Ruth Corley said the video was released “to show the crowd that was surrounding the incident and to show people, not only was it a horrible event, but it was witnessed by so many people who did absolutely nothing to stop or call police.”
The sexual assault followed a shooting that injured seven people in March at a spring-break beach house party. Beach officials have cracked down on underage drinking and increased the presence of law enforcement because of the violence.
“We have got to get control of our beaches,” the sheriff said. “It is not safe for our children to be out there on the beaches when these animals are out there.”
Back in Alabama, Troy University Dean of Student Services Herbert Reeves said Sunday that both students have been suspended. Martistee was also removed from the track and field team, he said.
Associated Press writers Kelli Kennedy in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and Jeff Martin in Atlanta contributed to this report.