UR seniors Ani Okeke Ewo and Nicholas Kollias, whose kidnapping this weekend made national news, are safe and recovering after being rescued by a Rochester Police Department (RPD) SWAT team on Sunday, Dec. 6. Ewo and Kollias had been reported missing at around 6:30 p.m. on Dec. 5 in a vehicle with an Illinois license plate. They were ultimately held captive for more than 30 hours in a residence at 22 Harvest Street, in northeast Rochester.
An email sent by UR Department of Public Safety (DPS) to the University community at 5:20 p.m. on Dec. 6 notified students that Ewo and Kollias had been reported missing, and requested that anyone with relevant information contact DPS. A follow-up email sent at 11:32 p.m. noted that the two students had been located.
At a press conference on the evening of Dec. 6, University President Joel Seligman said, “There is a collective sense of relief tonight that all of us feel. This could have turned out in a very different way.”
Rochester Police Chief Michael Ciminelli explained that, through a joint investigation by RPD and DPS, “We determined that these students were forcibly abducted; they were being held against their will.”
Ciminelli went on to explain that after observing the location, the SWAT team entered the residence using what he referred to as a “dynamic entry” and rescued the students. No one was injured during the rescue, he added.
Neither student had sustained life-threatening injuries, although one of the students had been shot in the leg had been shot in the leg.
Seligman sent an email to the University community on Wednesday, Dec. 9, elaborating on the kidnapping and surrounding circumstances. In the email, Seligman expressed gratitude to RPD and Monroe County District Attorney Sandra Doorley, before quoting a press release from the District Attorney’s office that detailed the arrests of suspects in the kidnapping.
On Tuesday, Doorley wrote, “six individuals were arraigned on felony charges related to the abduction.” Dennis Perez (age 24), Lydell Strickland (age 26), Samantha Hughes (age 21) and Leah Gigliotti (age 20) were charged with first-degree kidnapping, which is a Class A felony. Ruth M. Lora (age 21) and Inalia Rolldan (age 19) were charged with second-degree kidnapping, a Class B felony.
Doorley reiterated, as had both Ciminelli and Seligman, that they could not discuss many of the details of the crime because the investigation is ongoing. Doorley noted that releasing additional information at this time could be “detrimental to the investigation.”
Regarding the kidnapping, Ciminelli and Seligman both gave reassurances that the situation is not believed to have been present a threat to other UR students. Ewo and Kollias were not abducted from UR property, and Ciminelli described the crime as a “directed event” in which Ewo and Kollias had been specifically targeted for abduction.
According to an article published Wednesday by the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle, Strickland has previously been convicted of drug possession, and was previously accused of weapons possession. The motives of the kidnappers had not been revealed at press time, and Ciminelli would not comment on whether drugs had been involved.
Passanisi is a member of the class of 2017.