Ehrin Pruett, a former Colorado Mesa University student and Sodexo employee, tendered resignation from his position at Einstein Bros. Bagels in CMU’s Tomlinson Library, according to Sodexo representative Kate Wester. The decision seemed to stem from allegations that he sent online threats of sexual assault over Facebook Messenger to Rikki Estes, a 21-year-old former Palisade High School student.
“We have received several Facebook messages about him,” Heidi Davidson, Grand Junction Police Department’s information officer, said on Nov. 1. “Each one has been asked to either call non-emergency dispatch directly so they can speak to an officer or deputy, or if they know one of the people that have been contacted by Pruett, to ask them to call and make a report.”
Davidson stated that in spite of the complaints that GJPD had received through Facebook, nobody had called them to file a report about the incident involving Estes or any of the others who Pruett had allegedly harassed.
According to Estes, Pruett was sending her messages from Sept. 6 to Oct. 30, with messages that began as attempts to sweet-talk her. At one point, Pruett asked Estes how long it had been since someone took her breath away.
When Estes did not respond to his advances, she said Pruett changed the tone of the conversation. Pruett insulted women and expressed anger that Estes had not responded when he had said nice things to her, to which Estes said, “I guess not.”
Pruett then proceeded to describe how he would sexually assault Estes. Screenshots of the conversation were provided to The Criterion, showing his threats that were both sexually violent and detailed.
The screenshots show Pruett to have said, “So what if I fuck your pussy til it bleeds and pull the hair out of your skull. Choke you with this dick til you puke and make you eat it. Make it hurt to swallow for a month.”
“His comments made me feel gross,” Estes said. “I couldn’t even read them through all of the way the first time because of how vulgar and disturbing it was. It made me feel awkward and kind of scared and confused as to why he would even think of saying that.”
After Estes asked Pruett to leave her alone, he responded by calling her a vulgar and sexually suggestive name before ceasing the conversation.
Estes’ sister shared the conversation on Facebook and the status spread quickly, being shared hundreds of times in a matter of days. Along with the shares, several women commented that they’d had similar interactions with Pruett. The post continued to spread until it was reported for containing explicit sexual content.
Before the post was taken down, the rapidly spreading Facebook status inspired people to raise complaints to the GJPD and CMU.
When CMU received complaints about Pruett, the administration tried to act swiftly. Vice President of Student Services John Marshall stated the university was notified of the conversation first thing in the morning on Oct. 31. According to Marshall, the response from CMU came within “minutes, not hours.”
The first concern CMU had was how the issue was affiliated with the university. CMU discovered that though the victim was not a student, the alleged respondent, Pruett, was affiliated with the university through his employment with Sodexo, a vendor CMU uses for dining services.
“We had a pretty direct conversation immediately with our vendor,” Marshall said. “I alerted the vendor that person was not allowed on campus while they investigate this.”
The main matter of importance to CMU was campus safety. Marshall stated they were prepared to have Pruett escorted off campus as quickly as possible.
“There’s an appreciation that sometimes you have to take people at their word. And so when someone sends a message as vile and graphic as that message, you believe them. That’s really dangerous behavior,” Marshall said. “If we’re serious about this being a safe place and we’re serious about standing up against violence against women, you’ve got to act quickly.”
Sodexo shared CMU’s sense of urgency in addressing the issue and immediately contacted the human resources department. Joe Winegardner, general manager of dining services, also shared the information with his district manager. Human resources felt the matter needed to be turned over to corporate security and an investigator was flown to Grand Junction on Nov. 1.
“We immediately contacted Ehrin [Pruett] and he was put on investigatory leave,” Winegardner said on Nov. 1. “This is something obviously that our company takes very seriously. I also met with […] Pua Utu, the director of security for the campus […] and met with John Marshall yesterday morning after we found out what was going on.”
According to Wester, Sodexo’s director of communications, universities, after the GJPD made Sodexo aware of the allegations against Pruett, a member of Sodexo’s security team spoke with him off campus. The details of the investigation are confidential, however, Wester shared that Pruett was forthcoming in the conversation.
“The employee [Pruett] corroborated details of the allegations,” Wester said in an email correspondence with The Criterion. “The employee then decided to tender his resignation, effective immediately.”
One week after learning of messages Marshall said the situation was “absolutely atrocious and unacceptable.” The vice president said as far as CMU’s involvement is concerned, “it’s a resolved matter.”
Whether or not formal legal charges are raised against Pruett, the threatening messages sent to Estes resulted in the end of his employment with Sodexo and CMU has declared that he shall remain unwelcome on campus.
Attempts to reach Pruett for comment on Facebook have not been returned.