Student patrol given new responsibility with shooting

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CHAMPAIGN — Police say they haven’t been able to connect Sunday’s two shootings.

Originally, they had reason to believe they might be due to where and when they happened. Now, they say there isn’t enough information to say they are related.

While they weren’t part of the investigation, student patrol officers were working alongside police officers. Their boss says they had never dealt with something like this before.

On campus, people are out and about in the early morning hours.

“I’m out late at night with my friends going to get food,” says freshman Aminah Muhammad.

Naqia Haideri says, “I work until 1 am sometimes.”

Many students take advantage of SafeWalks and SafeRides offered on campus. Ryan Johnson is in charge of nearly 30 student patrol officers at UI.

“They have a beat. They have a specific area that they are assigned to each evening, and their focus is on that area.”

Usually their beat consists of walking people home, checking on campus buildings, and looking for any suspicious behavior; not shootings.

He says, “We did have a couple who were nearby, within a couple blocks of the incident.”

Once police secured the area, the 10 or 12 student patrol officers on duty tended to an increased number of requests for SafeWalks and maintained the perimeter of a deadly crime scene.

Johnson says, “This type of incident was a real eye opener and a real difficult situation for some of them to be in.”

Johnson says only a handful are pursuing a career in law enforcement but most others on the team didn’t sign up for this. He says this crime adds a new dimension to the job they do, and will require updates to their training.

Their boss is proud of the way they handled themselves that morning, but wants to see how his officers are handling it away from the crime scene.

“This is one of those things where we have to take some time to debrief with our staff. Talk with them, provide them with any kind of counseling or assistance that they could possibly need.” 

Taking about 1,500 calls for SafeWalks every year, some undergrads say they could use them now more than ever.

“Especially recently with the shooting, you know, there’s a lot of stuff going on on campus. Especially when it’s just girls, I think it’s good to have someone walk back with you,” says Muhammad. 

The student patrol team will meet Wednesday to talk about their experiences Sunday morning. They’ll go over what they did and what they’ll do in the future if something like this happens again.

Meanwhile, police say they’re working every angle they can trying to catch the shooter.

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