“Tiger Transit” Drivers Accused of Raping Auburn Student on Bus

AUBURN, Ala. (WIAT) — Two men are facing charges, accused of sexually assaulting an 18-year-old woman who was riding Auburn University’s Night Transit Friday evening, a bus service for faculty and students provided by a contractor, First Transit.

According to Auburn Police, around 11:50 p.m. Friday night, they were alerted to a man exposing himself, standing over a woman in the 700 block of Aspen Heights Lane in Auburn. Officers reportedly found First Transit employee Tony Patillo, age 51 from Columbus, Georgia, near the road and detained him. He was initially arrested on four counts of public lewdness and taken to the Lee County Jail.

Following further investigation, police determined the woman, who appeared incapacitated, entered the bus near Magnolia Ave in Auburn. While on the bus, Auburn Police say she was sexually assaulted by Patillo while the driver of the bus, identified as James Don Johnson Jr, 32 of Auburn, engaged in action to perpetuate the crime while Patillo assaulted the victim in the back of the bus.

Police say the female victim was unable to be located when they first responded to the report, but they eventually identified, contacted and interviewed her. Warrants for Patillo and Johnson’s arrests on the offenses of rape in the first degree and sodomy in the 1st were then executed. Patillo is incarcerated in the Lee County Jail on a $127,000 bond. Johnson was arrested at his home and is in the Lee County Jail with bond set at $125,000.

Auburn University released the following statement:

Two arrests have been made resulting from a sexual assault that occurred early Saturday morning. Auburn University is working with the City of Auburn Police Division in their investigation.

Our top concern is the well-being of the victim, and we cannot stress in strong enough terms our shock and distress over this despicable act. We immediately provided support and all available resources to the victim and continue to do so.

The suspects were employees of First Transit, the contractor hired by Auburn to provide late night transportation service for students. The contractor is required to conduct thorough background checks on its employees and has terminated the employment of both suspects. We are evaluating the future of the university’s relationship with First Transit.

As this is the subject of an ongoing investigation, further questions should be directed to the Auburn Police Division.

CBS 42 looked into the transit system. Tiger Transit is reportedly only available to Auburn University faculty and staff, and states its mission is: “to provide safe and reliable service to Auburn University.”

The crime is still under investigation, and anyone with information is asked to call detectives at 334-501-3140 or the 24 hour non-emergency number 334-501-3100.  Callers may also provide information anonymously on the tip line 334-246-1391.

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