The Texas Rangers have launched an official investigation into how Baylor University handled claims of sexual assault made against its students, notably members of its football team.
Tom Vinger, a spokesman for the Texas Department of Public Safety, confirmed to ESPN in a statement that Texas’ top law enforcement is “working with the local prosecutor to conduct a preliminary investigation to determine if further action is warranted.”
The Texas Rangers will work with the McLennan County District Attorney’s Office.
Last Friday Democratic State Rep. Ronald Gutierrez filed HR 644, urging Texas Gov. Greg Abbott “to direct the Texas Rangers with investigating the obstruction of justice surrounding the sexual assault of young female students at Baylor University.”
“The level of cover-up that has been both reported and also admitted at this point is appalling,” according to the filing.
Previous documents showed that police officers in Waco, Texas, along with former head football coach Art Briles and other university officials, were aware of at least some of the physical and sexual assault allegations made against numerous players but did not take disciplinary action or fully investigate all allegations and, in some instances, even covered up information.
In a podcast Wednesday Gutierrez said he is “very proud” that the Texas Rangers are aware “that there’s a need to go in there and look at what happened over the last five to six years.”
He also addressed the issue at a news conference Monday.
“What has happened here in Waco, what happened at Baylor, is so far different from any university in the state,” he said. “We can’t stop bad things from happening, but we sure as hell can demand accountability. We sure as hell can demand that people protect our children.”
A lawsuit filed against the university in January reveals that Baylor is “aware of at least 52 acts of rape, including five gang rapes, by not less than 31different football players under Briles” between 2011 and 2014.
Baylor’s Board of Regents was aware that football was being put above women’s safety, according to the lawsuit:
“Regent J.Cary Grayrecently stated, ‘There was a cultural issue there that was putting winning football games above everything else, including our values.’ ‘We did not have a caring community when it came to these women who reported that they were assaulted. And that is not OK.'”
Another regent reportedly said that football is “a big deal at Baylor” and the university was having “a lot of success.”
“Nobody wanted to mess it up,” the regent said.
According to Gutierrez, “that whole entire board of regents needs to examine themselves.”
“Baylor failed, and they failed on multiple fronts and by their own admission they failed,” he said. “And it’s not that their apologies aren’t good enough. It’s just that the conduct over the last several months, over the last several years, no one has been able to truly get a very transparent look at what happened.”
More details emerge about the repeated sexual assault allegations against the school’s football players, and the lack of action taken by university officials and police.
Former coach Briles was fired last year amid mounting allegations that he was aware of the sexual assaults taking place but did not take action. Former university president Ken Starr was also dismissed and stepped down from his position as chancellor. Ian McCraw, the former athletic director, had been suspended and eventually resigned.
An independent investigation into the university last year, conducted by law firm Pepper Hamilton, concluded that both the university and the football department specifically failed to address sexual assault allegations raised against players.
The announcement of the latest investigation comes the same week a McLennan County judge signed a protective order filed by the girlfriend of Travon Blanchard, a defensive back for Baylor’s football team, who was suspended indefinitely last month, “pending the outcome of the investigation,” the university said in a statement.
The affidavit highlights several incidents of violence, according to KWTX, including one in which Blanchard “began tossing and shoving the applicant around the apartment, slamming her into the sofa, bed, and walls several times causing soreness in her entire body.”