CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (WCIA) — “The fact now that its effecting our small children and coming into that part of our community is absolutely ridiculous,” Audra Behm, mother, said.
Some parents are outraged after their children’s bus was hit by a bullet on their way home from school. Police say it all started when someone started firing at another vehicle.
They say the gunfire happened near the intersection of Neil Street and Arcadia Drive. A crash happened shortly after that about a mile away at Moreland and Town Center Boulevards.
Audra Behm says she knows something worse could have happened to her son and says she’s grateful he came back to her okay.
“We’re very thankful he’s okay, but its just one of those things where you don’t think it can happen until it does,” Behm said.
What was a normal afternoon took a terrifying turn for several families, when they found out a Champaign school bus had been hit by a bullet with their kids inside. Audra Behm’s son is autistic and non-verbal. She says this was one of his first times riding the bus.
“Seems like one thing after another is happening in this town and then this happens with our child and its terrifying. Its terrifying to think about that the opposite could have happened,” Behm said.
Police say nobody on the bus was hurt during the gunfire, but a 34-year-old man’s car was hit and he crashed, along with several other vehicles. Police say the man went to the hospital. They don’t know if he was hurt in the accident or grazed by a bullet. Behm says the whole ordeal was traumatizing.
“I’m terrified to ever send him on a bus again,” Behm said. “The bus driver and the monitor they saved those kids and they did amazing and I couldn’t have asked for better. Its not them that I don’t want my kid around and don’t feel safe with, its just the situation and how I feel as a mother.”
Behm says it was a stressful afternoon trying to figure out why her son was late. It included a phone and Zoom call, and finally an email.
“The director told us there was an incident and that our son had been brought back to school. It wasn’t until about 30 minutes later that we got that email. I had kind of pieced it together, but I wasn’t sure,” Behm said.
At the end of the day, she’s just thankful her son came back safely to her.
“I spent every time I could with him this evening and just thankful that he was with me and that he wasn’t hurt,” Behm said.
The Champaign School District wrote this statement:
“Dear Unit 4 Families,
We want to provide an update regarding a message sent earlier this afternoon. We have learned that a Champaign Unit 4 school bus was struck by gunfire while transporting students home from school today. No one was injured. We are grateful for our bus driver who had the composure to remain calm and quickly pull the bus over to ensure that the students were safe. Champaign Police Department was notified and is investigating the incident. CPD will issue a press release this evening.
Please be reminded that if you see something that is not safe, to say something. It is imperative that we work together to keep our community safe for our children.
Unit 4 Schools”
Champaign Mayor Deb Feinen also stated, “I am so grateful that the children and driver were not injured in today’s incident. I continue to be outraged by these senseless acts of gun violence in our community. I thank our officers who are working around the clock to solve these crimes and ask anyone with information to contact Champaign Police or Crime Stoppers.”
Lastly, Superintendent of Champaign Schools, Shelia Boozer, released this email to parents after the incident.
“Dear Unit 4 Families,
As you may know, an incident that occurred in the community closely affected us today. Unfortunately, a Unit 4 yellow bus was struck by gunfire while transporting students from school. Thankfully, no one was injured and our transportation personnel were composed, calm and reassuring to those on the bus. Staff on other buses also worked to ensure that their students were safe. We are incredibly proud of them. Champaign Police continues its investigation.
Many of you have expressed extreme concern with the ongoing community violence over the past several months. I, too, am outraged. Please know the safety and well-being of all of our students and staff will always remain a top priority for our District. We will continue to monitor, review and adjust our safety measures and practices during the school day and for other events and do everything in our power to keep students, staff, and visitors safe. We will also continue to partner with those willing to assist us in these efforts.
I want to thank all of our community and family members who have already come alongside Unit 4 for your active show of support. While we are disheartened by the violence our community is experiencing, we are not giving up on our students having a successful school year. The one percent does not get the right to dictate the narrative of the remaining 99 percent. We will continue to do great things together.
With sincere appreciation and optimism,
Dr. Shelia Boozer