DURHAM, N.C. – A woman who claims she was raped by members of Duke University's lacrosse team was described as "just passed-out drunk" by one of the first police officers to see her, according to a recording of radio traffic obtained Thursday by The Associated Press.
The conversation between the officer and a police dispatcher took place about 1:30 a.m. March 14, about five minutes after a grocery store security guard called 911 to report a woman in the parking lot who would not get out of someone else's car.
The officer gave the dispatcher the police code for an intoxicated person and said the woman was unconscious. When asked whether she needed medical help, the officer said: "She's breathing and appears to be fine. She's not in distress. She's just passed-out drunk."
The black woman, a 27-year-old stripper and college student, told police she was raped and beaten by three white men around midnight at an off-campus party thrown by Duke's lacrosse team. The racially charged allegations have led Duke to cancel the highly ranked team's season and accept the resignation of its coach.
No charges have been filed, but District Attorney Mike Nifong has said he believes a crime was committed. Attorneys for the players have said DNA tests failed to connect any players to the alleged attack, and they have urged Nifong to drop his investigation.
The radio recordings, obtained by the AP through a records request, are the first instance in which police or anyone connected with the investigation has said the woman appeared to be intoxicated.
Defense lawyers, however, have said time-stamped photographs taken by the players show that the accuser was drunk and already had suffered some injuries when she arrived at the house for the party.
The recording is consistent with "what I have seen of the photo evidence before," attorney Kerry Sutton said. Those photos, she said, showed that she was "way beyond where you would put somebody behind the wheel of a car."
The description of the woman's medical exam — which Nifong has said is his basis for believing a rape occurred — does not mention her being drunk. It states only that the woman's injuries and behavior were consistent with having been raped, sexually assaulted and having suffered a traumatic experience.
The woman has told police she and another stripper hired to dance at the party arrived at 11:30 p.m. March 13. The pair reportedly left the house a short time later, fearing for their safety. The accuser told police the two were coaxed back into the house with an apology, at which point they were separated. That's when she said she was dragged into a bathroom and raped, beaten and choked for a half hour.
At 12:53 a.m., police received a 911 call from a woman complaining that she had been called racial slurs by white men gathered outside the home where the party took place.
The defense has said it believes the second dancer at the party made that call. The 911 call from the grocery store security guard was placed at 1:22 a.m.
In it, the caller says, "Um, the problem is ... it's a lady in somebody else's car and she will not get out of their car. She's like, she's like intoxicated, drunk or something. She's, I mean, she won't get out of the car, period. "
A police spokeswoman did not immediately return a call seeking comment on the radio traffic.
The case has focused intense national scrutiny on Duke and the lacrosse players and has sparked protests on the elite private university's campus and elsewhere in Durham. The school last week canceled the highly ranked team's season and coach Mike Pressler resigned after the release of a vulgar and graphic e-mail sent by a team member shortly after the alleged assault.
Several of the defense attorneys say they expect the district attorney to ask a grand jury on Monday to issue charges in connection with allegations.
"Rest up on Sunday," Sutton said.
There has been no official word, however, on whether Nifong intends to present the allegations Monday. His next opportunity would come two weeks later.