Warning: This article contains graphic content, mentions of stalking, and invasion of privacy.
On Feb. 15, Isla Vista (I.V.) Foot Patrol arrested UC Santa Barbara (UCSB) student, Justin Asinobi, for allegedly placing cameras inside a victim’s bathroom. Since then, Zara Mohammad, a fourth-year UCSB student and I.V. resident, has come forward to share her story as the second survivor of Asinobi’s invasive acts of privacy and stalking to The Bottom Line (TBL).
Mohammed was shocked to see the online news about Asinobi’s arrest, on account of hiding cameras in an air freshener for stalking and invasion of privacy purposes. While well-known for his position as an Associated Student (AS) representative within the Commission of Disability Equality, many students knew of Asinobi through his popular Twitter account. This, Mohammed explained, is how she and Asinobi met and how they became friends.
Explaining the friendly nature of the I.V. community, Mohammad shared how she spent time together with Asinobi, going grocery shopping and eventually inviting him into her and her housemates’ home.
“He came off as very trusting and very genuine,” Mohammed explained. “So, [upon finding out about his charges], we were just like, wow. Someone that close to us […] actually had two faces. It was just a lot.”
The days following the news of Asinobi’s case were filled with shock and distraction for Mohammed and her four girl housemates, who also knew Asinobi well.
Things took a turn for the worst when her roommate found a camera within their own home, planted tidily inside a white charging cube that they had been using throughout the house.
Mohammed explained to TBL how she had noticed the unclaimed charger in her housemates’ bathroom and recalled how they did not think much of it, often using it in various places throughout the fall quarter. Upon finding the camera, their house connected Asinobi’s visits to the timeline similar to the first vicitim’s reported findings and they filed a police report.
“I remember crying and being, like, ‘no this isn’t happening to us,’” expressed Mohammed. “We can’t believe we let that happen in our home. And we were just like, we needed to be […] more aware of our surroundings.”
She recalled the following weeks as being most in contact with the Isla Vista Police Department (IVPD) rather than any school resources or AS themselves.
During a follow-up with the police department, Mohammed told TBL, she and her housemates were asked to identify themselves and others of whom they knew from the photos retrieved from the camera. They were also shown photos of other I.V. residents’ bathrooms and various rooms around I.V. connected to Asinobi’s case.
“We didn’t really know any of them, but we just know that there were a lot of files — like almost 30 files of places in I.V.,” Mohammad grimly remembered.
The large number of places where Asinobi had planted his cameras alarmed Mohammed and her housemates; she was shocked to find out how long Asinobi’s actions have been going on. Since her roommate found the camera, Mohammed has been getting support from friends and accommodating professors during this period of fear.
She described how she navigated out of feelings of guilt, being the one who invited Asinobi into their house in the first place. However, her housemates and friends reassured her that the situation was not her fault and that none of them could have known about Asinobi’s cynical ulterior motives when they visited them.
Mohammad described her and her housemates’ fear when Asinobi was released on bail.
“Honestly, we were really shocked that UCSB hasn’t, like, kicked him out or anything, or officially stated that,” she told TBL.
She also described her frustration with I.V. Police Department for not only releasing Asinobi, but for also failing to inform them of the process of his case. The department took limited action, Mohammed told TBL, by simply taking pictures of their home and asking about them, but not following up on the house later on.
“We were kind of disappointed with IVPD because they didn’t inform us at all,” Mohammad shared, “and one of my housemates actually ended up calling IVPD, asking them, ‘Is it true that he is out?’ and stuff like that.”
Moving forward, Mohammed shares her love for I.V.’s friendly community but also warns others to remain alert of whom you spend time with and whom you let into your home. She encourages everyone to not “let your guards down” and to create strong boundaries.
“But, I guess at the same time, no one could have seen this coming, too,” said Mohammed.