Local police respond to NIU shootings

By Sky Opila

When DeKalb and Northern Illinois police responded to the shootings at Cole Hall on the campus located about 65 miles west of Chicago, police officers statewide were alerted soon after.

The University Police Department began looking into the incident to make sure it was isolated and that there was no threats on the University, said Interim Chief of Police Jeff Christensen.

At 6:45 p.m., the department was told that the shooter was a current University student. Christensen said the police began by searching through local databases to find out any information they could about the shooter, later identified as 27-year-old graduate student Stephen Kazmierczak. The searches turned up nothing, Christensen said.

“What’s concerning about this is that he wasn’t on our radar screen,” Christensen said. “There was nothing there.”

Police could not release the name of the shooter Thursday night because the investigation in DeKalb was still ongoing, Christensen said, and it was that department’s decision to determine when names would be released as the lead investigator.

Christensen also said University police went to the School of Social Work, where Kazmierczak was a student and investigated to see if he had any personal spaces within University property. It was determined that he did not.

Throughout Thursday night, local police departments continued to provide support to investigators from DeKalb, who were working their way down to Champaign.

“We’re going to look back at this and see if there is anything we missed,” Christensen said.

Following an April 2007 incident at Virginia Tech where a student opened fire in campus buildings killing 32, the University created an emergency text messaging system to increase communication in case this type of incident were to occur in Champaign-Urbana. Christensen said local police also began carrying tools for forcing entry into buildings because the shooter at Virginia Tech chained doors shut after he entered buildings.

Although it is undecided exactly how the University police and administration will respond in the coming days, University spokesperson Robin Kaler said they will be doing everything they can.

“We’re certainly going to have another message to students asking them to sign up (for the emergency text messaging service),” Kaler said. “(We can) ask everyone to always be extra vigilant … If you see someone who exhibits a sign that is disturbing to you, go and tell someone.”