Two individuals have been accused of attempting an armed robbery at Western Carolina University, sparking concerns within the campus community. The incident, occurring over the weekend near Hunter Library at approximately 9 p.m. on Sunday, fortunately resulted in no injuries. University Police Chief Steven Lillard clarified that neither of the two suspects had any affiliation with the university.
According to Lillard, the altercation ensued when a student was approached by one of the suspects while returning home from work. The suspect demanded money, leading to a brief scuffle before all parties left the campus unharmed and without any possessions taken. Although the authorities identified the vehicle on campus, they are still piecing together the sequence of events.
Lillard emphasized that the victim and the suspects were not acquainted, labeling the incident as a crime of opportunity. In response, a prompt campus notification was disseminated to alert the community. Swift action led to the arrest of 18-year-old James Copeland, currently held in the Jackson County jail on a $120,000 secured bond. Copeland and the second suspect, Ali Perez, 19, from Whittier, face similar charges.
Detailing the charges, Lillard noted, “They’re both charged with attempted armed robbery and both charged with the weapon on educational property just because they were acting in concert.” He underlined the continuous focus on campus safety, highlighting ongoing efforts to educate students about risk reduction measures such as being vigilant of their surroundings and sharing their plans, particularly during nighttime activities.
Lillard also pointed out the various safety services available, including a safety app and the CAT-TRAN service, along with other escort services. Anyone with pertinent information regarding the incident or any other criminal activity on campus is urged to contact university police at 828-227-8911.