If there’s one thing Jeremiah Ransom is sure of, it’s that he’ll think twice before dressing up like a ninja at the University of Georgia again.
And he can thank agents for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms for that.
On Tuesday, Ransom — a sophomore from Macon, Georgia — was attending a “Pirate vs. Ninja” mixer at the Wesley Foundation, a United Methodist on-campus group, when he got hungry and decided to go grab a bite to eat at the nearby Snelling Dining Hall. The only problem was he was still wearing his homemade ninja costume — a pair of black sweatpants, a T-shirt and a red bandanna tied around his face.
According to university police, around 12:30 p.m., Ransom jogged from the Wesley Foundation to Snelling when a group of ATF agents — on campus to teach a Project Safe Neighborhoods workshop to local law enforcement — decided he was acting in a suspicious manner and sprung into action.
“The agents were on a lunch break, and they noticed Ransom coming through the area dressed in all black and wearing a mask. An agent claimed that he heard sirens in the distance and said that he saw Ransom holding a gun,” University Police Chief Jimmy Williamson told MTV News. “They gave chase and ordered him to freeze. And then, with guns drawn, subdued him and began to search for weapons.”
The ATF agents subdued Ransom with a knee to the neck — an action captured by several UGA students on their camera phones. Those photos were published on a student newspaper’s Web site, RedAndBlack.com, and several students left comments on the site expressing their outrage at the way Ransom was treated.
“Jeremy is probably one of the nicest guys in the world. This is crazy!” one post read. “Apparently there was a nice little string of ’F’ words directed his way also. He did not deserve that treatment once they realized he did not have a gun.”
ATF Special Agent in Charge Vanessa McLemore could not be reached for comment.
While Ransom could not be reached either, The Red and Black reported that he repeatedly told the ATF agents he was only carrying his keys, wallet and cell phone, but that the agent holding him to the ground responded that as trained officers, they would not have mistaken any of those objects for a gun.
The ATF agents called for university police, who arrived and took Ransom into custody. They quickly realized the whole incident had been a big mistake.
“We spoke with Mr. Ransom, and since no gun was found — and because his story checked out — we released him,” Williamson said. “After the fact, I spoke with the ATF agents, because I was not happy with the way things were handled. I can certainly understand both sides of the story — where law enforcement would see it as suspicious — but police have a responsibility to act with due diligence.
“I’ve been here for 18 years, and this whole thing is one of the most embarrassing and unfortunate situations I’ve ever seen,” he continued. “And it has to be one of the worst things that ever happened to [Ransom]. To be walking to get some lunch … to having a gun drawn on him. I feel bad for him.”
But Ransom doesn’t want people to feel sorry for him. Aside from a bruise on his back, he’s fine, and he told The Red and Black he hopes the Wesley Foundation continues with its themed mixers. He is, however, considering taking legal action against the ATF.
He’s also looking to benefit from his newfound ninja fame. In Thursday’s (April 13) Red and Black, he’s pictured wearing a “Hi Ya: It’s Ninja Time” T-shirt, and he’s just updated his Facebook.com profile to a wanted poster, featuring him in full ninja gear.