Alray Nelson, the student body president at Fort Lewis College, resigned Tuesday afternoon, just hours before he was arrested and served a summons on suspicion of falsely reporting to police that he has received threats.
Nelson, who is openly gay and Navajo, reported several bias-motivated threats against him, including notes left on his car, harassing text messages sent to his cell phone and harassing e-mails, said Alex Hutchison, a detective with the Durango Police Department.
Hutchison said Nelson also claimed to have been drugged downtown, but police suspect that claim is false, too.
“During the course of our investigation, we determined that these incidents did not occur, and there is evidence to believe that Alray filed false reports with multiple law-enforcement agencies,” he said.
Mitch Davis, college spokesman, confirmed Nelson's resignation.
“The feeling on campus is one of deep disappointment,” Davis said. “There were a lot of people who have very high hopes for president Nelson. This is just very disappointing.”
Nelson was served with the summons at 5:10 p.m. Tuesday at the Fort Lewis College Police Department offices.
Because he was issued a summons, he was not booked into La Plata County Jail. He must make his initial appearance next month in La Plata County Court. The summons was issued by the Durango Police Department.
Nelson first made false reports Nov. 5 and claimed the threats began about the end of October, said Arnold Trujillo, chief of the Fort Lewis College Police Department.
The Durango Police Department had been providing an extra patrol for Nelson's house in Durango ever since he reported the threats, Hutchison said. Other than that, Nelson has not received any special protection, he said.
“The Durango Police Department investigates all bias-motivated crimes very seriously,” Hutchison said.
When asked why Nelson fabricated the threats, Hutchison said: “It is unfortunate that Alray used his platform in the community to deceive others and draw attention to himself.”
Nelson faces up to six months in jail and a $750 fine if convicted of false reporting, a misdemeanor.
Nelson is the second Native American student body president in the college's history. He was elected last academic year and took office this semester.
He has been active on a number of issues, including lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender causes. He was majoring in political science.
“He made an effort to be a more public student body president than perhaps some of the presidents have been,” Davis said.
Nelson has taken center stage at a couple of rallies this semester at FLC:
b On Oct. 29, more than 250 students, faculty and community members rallied in support of Nelson after comments were posted on The Durango Herald's website calling for his impeachment and criticizing his ethnicity and sexual orientation.
b Last week, Nelson addressed more than 1,000 students, faculty and community members at a rally to promote peace and tolerance. The rally was organized in response to a planned protest by the Westboro Baptist Church, a Kansas-based church known for its inflammatory homophobic messages. Church members never showed. The Westboro Baptist Church issued a news release announcing it planned to protest at FLC, so he's not suspected of orchestrating that, Davis said.
“When it comes to the things that Alray has said, I don't know what to believe,” he said.
College President Dene Kay Thomas was vocal in her support of Nelson in the last several weeks. She also promised and followed through with providing space for a new Gender and Sexuality Resource Center on campus.
Durango Mayor Michael Rendon, a supporter of Nelson's, said the arrest and summons is “unfortunate.”
“He's been a really outstanding student body president, but he obviously made the wrong choices in this case,” Rendon said.
The college sent an e-mail Tuesday night to students notifying them of the situation.
Student body Vice President Laura Beth Waltz will assume the presidency, and student Senator Heather Bryant will become the vice president.
As of Tuesday night, the college hadn't taken any disciplinary action against Nelson, Davis said.
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