A Tulane University student said she awoke about 3:30 a.m. Thursday to find a strange man standing by her bed, petting her dog.
It was like a dream, she said. When she asked the man why he was there, she said he replied, “I’m trying to get the dog off the bed. He’s not supposed to be there.”
“I think you should leave,” the student told him. The man turned around and walked away.
As she warned her roommates and called the police, he tried to enter her room again but was blocked when she put her weight against the door. When officers arrived at the residence in the 800 block of Pine Street minutes later, they found the man holding a bottle of bourbon in the hallway. Officers handcuffed him.
New Orleans police said the frightening, surreal scene was the work of 22-year-old Tulane student Oliver Jerde, who they said was responsible for at least two other similar recent break-ins and may have been behind more of the unsettling home invasions over the weekend near the university’s Uptown campus.
Police said earlier this week they suspected one man was behind five such break-ins, and Jerde, who's the son of famous architect Jon Jerde, fits the general description several victims gave of a white man with dark hair.
He was booked on simple burglary in the Thursday morning incident, according to online court records, as well as four counts of aggravated burglary and one count of aggravated assault.
Police allege that, among other crimes, Jerde frightened a 46-year-old woman Sunday by entering her bedroom in the 1000 block of Lowerline Street about 3:45 a.m. and placing his hand over her mouth. She managed to scream “No!” and he fled.
An hour later, police said, Jerde entered the house of a 21-year-old woman in the 1200 block of Lowerline Street, grabbed a knife after being confronted and then fled.
Second District Cmdr. Shaun Ferguson said Jerde stole jewelry and women’s clothes from the victims’ residences, but he declined to speculate on a motive.
New Orleans Police Superintendent Michael Harrison pointed to the arrest of Jerde, as well as the Wednesday indictments of four men in armed robberies at a bar and two restaurants in Uptown last year, as a sign of momentum for the New Orleans Police Department.
Harrison and Mayor Mitch Landrieu have just kicked off a campaign for a property tax hike designed to pay for more officers for the understaffed department.
“What you’re seeing is a department that’s extremely focused,” Harrison said. “We are catching these people.”
Jerde lives in the 800 block of Lowerline Street, a block from the site of the Thursday morning burglary and two blocks from a Sunday morning break-in in the 1000 block of Lowerline.
Detectives said they discovered several items stolen during the burglaries after executing a search warrant at Jerde’s residence.
A LinkedIn page describes Jerde as a philosophy major and the vice president of the campus chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness.
Tulane spokesman Michael Strecker confirmed that Jerde is a student at the school but declined to say whether he has been suspended, citing federal privacy laws.
Jerde appeared before Magistrate Commissioner Jonathan Friedman on Thursday, but arrest reports for several of the counts against him had not yet been entered into the court record. Friedman ordered Jerde to be held until a bail hearing Friday.
An assistant district attorney said the state will move to have Jerde held without bail until trial under a provision of state law that allows a judge to issue such an order if a defendant poses an imminent danger to the community.
Editor’s Note: This store has been updated to correct Jerde’s age.