Note dampens Halloween night

By Nicola Crean


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Students respond to threat

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With a string of recent shootings on campuses nationwide and a threat of a University shooting on Oct. 31, some students are re-evaluating their Halloween plans while investigators continue to search for the author of a threatening note.

The note was found in the Undergraduate Library men’s restroom on Oct. 5. The author stated that someone will be shot on Green Street on Oct. 31. The author of the note also claimed to have damaged a vehicle in the parking lot of the Savoy 16 theater, a crime that was confirmed by the Champaign County Sheriff’s Office.

Jeff Christensen, interim director of public safety for the University, sent out a campus-wide e-mail Wednesday regarding the investigation of the threat. He said the e-mail was sent to update the community about the investigation as Halloween got closer, and to dispel any rumors about multiple threats. According to Christensen, there have been many rumors about additional threats, but all have proven to be false.

In the e-mail, direct quotations from the note were released to the public.

According to Christensen’s e-mail, the author of the note claimed to have used a Ruger .22 caliber rifle to take a shot at a black sedan on Oct. 3.

“The note further stated that ‘On Halloween Night 2008’ another shot will be taken ‘on Green Street in the night life district,'” Christensen wrote in his e-mail.

Christensen said releasing direct quotations was a strategy to identify the author of the note.

“The opinion of the investigative team was that releasing some content of the message would be helpful in identifying the individual who wrote the letter,” he said.

Christensen added that police are taking the threat seriously.

“They’re working at it very aggressively,” he said. “They’ve looked at leads and tips. Each one of those gets exhausted and it’s still ongoing.”

Christensen also said there is a separate task force devoted to the police logistics and operational plans for Halloween.

“We’re working with other agencies, and there will be extra police resources throughout the campus district (Halloween night),” Christensen said. He added that the FBI is still involved, but that specific plans regarding the night could not be revealed.

“(The task force) is still made up of all the same players,” he said.

However, the knowledge of an additional police presence on campus during Halloween night did not assuage all students’ fears.

“I’m afraid. I’m definitely not going out on Green Street,” said Nadine Sheridan, senior in LAS.

She added that she thinks more people will be attending apartment parties than going out to the bars due to the threat.

“I don’t feel less safe, but people will be more aware and cautious because of the threat,” she said.

With Dad’s Weekend falling on Oct. 31 through Nov. 2, the parents of students may also be affected by this threat.

Edward Slazinik, executive director of the Dad’s Association, said there are no planned changes in events due to the threat. A tent party and banquet are still scheduled for the weekend.

Slazinik said he puts his faith in the precautions police are taking.

“This is an unfortunate situation, but I trust whatever the University police are doing to make sure students and visitors are going to be safe,” he said.

Robin Kaler, spokeswoman for the University, said she thought campus police are always prepared for an incident.

“We have an amazing police force,” Kaler said. “We can never anticipate exactly what will happen, but we are as prepared as we can be.”

Not all students, or family members, are worried about the threat.

“I don’t feel less safe on campus,” said Christine Fox, senior in ACES. She said she thought the police and school have taken good measures to protect students.

Lyndell Hubbard, a grandfather of a University student, will be visiting campus this weekend and said one should not be affected by an unsubstantiated threat.

“You can’t stay at home on account of somebody making threats,” Hubbard said. “It’s just a way for somebody to get attention.”

The Green Street threat has also disrupted a relatively new campus tradition for Allen Hall residents.

For the past four years, close to 200 residents of Allen Hall have dressed up as undead creatures in what Kevin Swanson, junior in Engineering and leader of the action, calls a “Zombie mob.”

“Usually Green Street is one of the best places to go for us,” Swanson said. However, due to the shooting threat, plans had to change.

“The plan is to go on as usual but not go further west of Wright Street,” he said. Because of the threat, the Allen Hall “Zombie Mob” is avoiding the bar area. Swanson added that they will be forgoing fake weapons in light of Christensen’s e-mail.

In the e-mail, Christensen asked again for community help in finding the author of the note. He said determining the threat’s credibility is difficult.

“There are probabilities, but this isn’t a hard science,” he said. “You hate to say it’s a low threat, or you hate to put a number on it, so even though this may be a terrible joke, we have to treat it seriously.”

Christensen added that nothing had been discovered to increase the threat’s credibility and that he hoped with community help, the author of the note could be found.

“We do get information (from the community) and that’s a very big help,” Christensen said. “We’re encouraging people if they get the feeling that this may be somebody they know to just go ahead and give us a call.”

If feeling overwhelmed by the situation, Christensen said students should go to the University Counseling Center, where professionals are available for anyone needing to work things out.