In May 2016, a concerned parent called the University of Arizona’s Dean of Students Office to report that Wildcats running back Orlando Bradford was physically abusing her daughter.
The mother said that she feared for her daughter’s safety but that the young woman was too afraid to speak to the school.
Less than a month after the phone call to the dean’s office, Bradford pushed the young woman into a wall and choked her.
When she tried to escape, he grabbed and scratched her, bruising her ribs in the process.
The woman endured several more months of abuse, with Bradford regularly choking, hitting and kicking her. On one occasion, he dragged her out of a car by her hair.
Bradford’s abuse of the woman was openly discussed in the locker room, but nobody from the school made any efforts to investigate the situation or stop the abuse.
Bradford was finally arrested in September 2016 after a second woman told Tucson police that the running back repeatedly beat and choked her over a two-day period. He was dismissed from the football team.
The next day, finally feeling safe, the first woman called Tucson police to report her abuse.
Bradford was ultimately charged with 15 domestic violence-related offenses. He ended up pleading guilty to one felony count of aggravated assault involving each of the two women.
While Bradford will be spending the next several years behind bars, having been sentenced in November to five years in prison, resolution for the UA might not come any time soon: The school has just been named in a second federal lawsuit that says UA officials knew Bradford was dangerous and acted with “deliberate indifference” when it came to protecting its students.
• • •
The lawsuit says the UA violated the woman’s Title IX rights. The federal law ensures all students receive an education free from sexual harassment, including dating violence and sexual assault.
The suit says that school officials were aware of Bradford’s penchant for violence against women for nearly a year before his arrest, and although the university took a few intermediary steps, such as banning him the dorms and moving him off campus, the school failed to take decisive action to protect its students.
“The UA had actual, repeated notice of Mr. Bradford’s dating violence and physical assaults of female university students that created a sexually hostile environment for women on its campus,” the lawsuit says, adding that the UA acted with “deliberate indifference” to that notice and subjected women to sexual violence and deprived them to equal access to educational opportunities.
The lawsuit says that the UA first became aware of Bradford’s behavior in late 2015, when coaches and a member of the athletic department noticed cuts and bruises on his then-girlfriend, who played on the softball team. While her coach urged the woman to stay away from Bradford, no one from the school intervened.
In March 2016, the woman reported the routine beating and choking incidents to the dean of students and additional athletic department staffers, saying that she wanted to break up with Bradford but she believed that Bradford would physically retaliate and escalate his assaults.
“The Dean of Students assured (the woman) that the university would provide her with adequate protection to prevent additional abuse by Bradford,” the lawsuit says.
Believing what school officials told her, the woman broke up with Bradford. A few weeks later, he showed up at the door to her dorm room, “shouting her name and trying to get to her,” the lawsuit says.
The woman was on the phone with her parents during the incident, and they immediately called police.
Campus police opened an investigation into Bradford the next day and in April, the UA granted the woman a no-contact order against Bradford.
Bradford was banned from the dorms, but the school took no further action to discipline him. UAPD collected “extensive documentation” of his physical abuse against the woman, but ultimately decided the couple had a “tumultuous relationship” and that the woman was partly to blame, the lawsuit said.
The school also didn’t open a Title IX investigation into the incident, despite the fact that the dean of students and a senior official within the athletic department knew about the numerous assaults.
“Instead, university employees assisted Mr. Bradford, a promising young football player, with securing off-campus housing with other members of the football team and continued to allow him to participate in football games and practice sessions with the UA football team,” the lawsuit says.
• • •
The woman who filed the most recent suit met Bradford while she was working as a student photographer for the athletic department. She began dating him in January 2016, while he was still dating — and abusing — the softball player.
Within two weeks, Bradford assaulted his new girlfriend, pushing her up against a wall and choking her for nearly 20 seconds after she asked why he didn’t want to spend time with friends, according to the lawsuit.
“Bradford continued to assault (the woman) throughout the spring 2016 semester, regularly choking, hitting and kicking her and even dragging her by her hair,” the lawsuit says, adding that he also threatened her with more abuse if she tried to report him or called the police.
The day after UAPD opened the investigation into Bradford based on his first girlfriend’s complaints, he attacked the other woman, dragging her across the floor screaming and choking her until she was able to escape. After hearing her screams, the woman’s neighbor called Tucson police. When they arrived, Bradford initially refused to let the woman answer the door, making her first cover up her injuries.
Less than a month later, the woman’s mother made the phone call to the dean of students.
The relationship and unabated abuse continued throughout the summer, until the woman tried to break up with him in late June.
Bradford began stalking the woman, showing up at her apartment and sending her threatening messages that she had “no choice” and “I think I will kill you if you leave, to be honest,” the lawsuit says.
“Deeply afraid,” the woman agreed to see Bradford and the abuse resumed “almost immediately,” according to the lawsuit.
During one incident, Bradford slapped her in the face so hard that her head hit the bathroom wall, causing a concussion.
Around the same time, Bradford began dating and abusing another woman, bragging to his friends that he had “tortured” her.
Throughout the summer and fall of 2016, Bradford’s abuse of the new woman was discussed openly in the locker room and other team areas.
“No one from the UA sought to stop the abuse or take other remedial measures to assist any of Mr. Bradford’s victims,” the lawsuit says. “Instead, for the fall 2016 football season, the university announced that Mr. Bradford would be a starting running back for the UA football team.”
• • •
Bradford pleaded guilty on Sept. 29. Around the same time, the woman who filed the suit was approached for the first time by a UA Title IX investigator who said she was looking into a “potential code of conduct complaint against Bradford.”
A few days later, the woman’s mother emailed the investigator to ask for more information. The investigator, Susan Wilson, responded by offering the department’s “support and assistance if needed, but didn’t address the questions or requests for more information.
With the exception of one more email exchange a few days later, in which Wilson said that Bradford wouldn’t be returning to campus, the UA never contacted the woman again.
The lawsuit says the woman still feels the physical effects of her concussion and other injuries as a result of Bradford’s prolonged physical and verbal abuse. It adds that she is suffering from substantial emotional trauma.
The suit alleges that the UA exercised indifference to substantial risk of harm by failing to conduct a Title IX investigation into reports of Bradford’s pattern of dating violence.
The school also failed to take measures to prevent further abuse and never offered protection to any potential targets.
“This failure to take any action, despite the university’s authority to do so, was clearly unreasonable in light of known circumstances,” the lawsuit says.
The woman is asking for damages that include reimbursement and prepayment for her expenses incurred as a result of the domestic violence, deprivation of equal access to educational opportunities at the UA and loss of future earnings.
Last February, the woman filed a claim with the Arizona Board of Regents, in which she offered to settle the case for $1 million. A claim is a precursor to a lawsuit and allows the defendant 60 days to settle before the matter can be pursued in court.
Contact reporter Caitlin Schmidt at email@example.com or 573-4191. Twitter: @caitlinschmidt