By LAURA HENSLEY
Eagle Staff Writer
A transgendered Hurricane Katrina evacuee jailed for five days after showering in the women's bathroom at a local shelter was released Friday after the county attorney declined to press charges.
Arpollo Vicks, a transgendered hurricane evacuee from New Orleans, talks to the media after her release from jail Friday. Vicks was arrested Sunday at Reed Arena for using the women's shower facility.
Arpollo Vicks, who was born male but lives as a woman, was arrested Sunday by Texas A&M University Police for criminal trespassing after she exited a women's shower facility at Reed Arena. Vicks, 20, had been staying at the shelter with other evacuees bused in from New Orleans.
Brazos County Attorney Jim Kuboviak said he first became aware of the situation Friday. Upon reviewing police reports, he ordered that Vicks be released.
"[Vicks] lacked criminal intent to violate the law," Kuboviak said. "If [Vicks] had been rummaging through stuff or doing any harm, that would have been different."
Vicks, who also goes by the name Sharli'e Dominique, said she simply was trying to take a shower in the facility she felt most comfortable using. The shower, she said, was a welcome respite after spending a harrowing five days living with little food and water on an Interstate 10 bridge and at the New Orleans convention center.
She and her two cousins were evacuated from their hometown last week and arrived in College Station by bus early Sunday morning. Less than 24 hours later, Vicks was in jail.
Corps of Cadets Commandant John Van Alstyne, who runs the shelter, told police he had warned Vicks not to use the women's rest room after another shelter resident complained. Vicks, though, said she had received permission from a shelter volunteer.
Vicks' 16-year-old cousin, who also is transgendered, was arrested as well after showering in the women's bathroom. She was released to the custody of her older sister earlier this week.
Vicks, dressed Friday in the only clothes she had - a white T-shirt with the word "sexy" on the chest, a pair of blue jeans and flip-flops - said she was relieved finally to be out of jail.
"Right now I'm glad it's all over," she said. "I'm not angry. I still have some animosity, but it's good to finally get a little support."
After Vicks was released from jail at about 2 p.m. Friday, she was taken in an unmarked University Police vehicle to the Brazos County Council of Governments office to begin the process of receiving hurricane assistance. There she met up with Claudette Peterson, a former director of an HIV clinic who read about Vicks' arrest in The Eagle on Friday morning.
"I hate that it happened in the first place," Peterson said. "But I'm not surprised. When I saw the article, I immediately began calling people. I just wanted to help. I have never met Arpollo before this afternoon. I'm not African-American and I'm not transgendered, but Arpollo is my sister."
Peterson connected Vicks with the Montrose Counseling Center, a Houston organization that is providing support and housing for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered hurricane evacuees.
Ann Robison, executive director of the center, said offers from around the country poured into her office Friday once word spread about Vicks' situation. Many people wanted to offer safe housing or donations for Vicks.
After spending a night at Peterson's home in Bryan, Vicks is likely to go to Houston and meet up with family members, she said.
Vicks, who said she is a university student and former substitute teacher and dreams of one day becoming a journalist, is looking forward to being reunited with her mother, Djuana, and other relatives all living at the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston. Before Friday, Vicks had no idea where her mother was or if she was safe.
Vicks said she hopes people learn something from her situation.
"Maybe this will make people more aware of transgendered and transsexual people," she said. "They are all over, and they have feelings, too. Maybe now this will help other gay people or transgendered people have a more positive experience in Bryan-College Station than I had."
Which is a better outcome than I was fearing...