Red Lion altercation opens up conversations about campus bar safety


Sydney Laput

Jaelynn Edwards, real estate student from Indiana, was hospitalized after an altercation with a worker from Red Lion during Unofficial on March 5. Edwards talks about her point of view of the incident and the event bringing light to people’s safety in campus bars.

By Lilli Bresnahan, Assistant News Editor

On March 5, during the weekend of Unofficial, Jaelynn Edwards was taken to the hospital at approximately 2 a.m. after an altercation with an employee of The Red Lion. A video of the incident surfaced online, which sparked conversation about the lack of safety at campus bars. 

Edwards, a 22-year-old student at a real estate school in Evansville, Indiana, had gone out with her friends to Red Lion. According to her, the Red Lion employee had been “super mean” to her before she entered the bar. 

“When I first went in there, he was looking at my ID and he thought it was a fake,” Edwards said.

When Edwards suggested that the employee scan her ID, Edwards said that he called her “stupid” and said “that’s such a dumb thing to say.”

Later in the night, when Edwards and her friends were on the dance floor, she said that the Red Lion employee began “dragging” her out, and she began hitting him “because he was grabbing me.”

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Joe Lamberson, interim assistant to the Champaign police chief, said that Edwards was being escorted out for being in an “unauthorized area” when she struck the bar employee, who police later confirmed “had injuries consistent with being punched.”

“According to on-scene reports, a female patron was escorted out of the bar for being in an unauthorized area,” Lamberson said in an email. “Once outside, the patron is alleged to have struck a security staff member in the head. The staff member took her to the ground, and she hit her head on the way down.”

Lamberson noted that no on-scene citations were issued by police at the time, and that the incident “remains under investigation.”

Edwards says she was not in an unauthorized area, and that her friends told her they watched as she was “grabbed” from where they were standing on the floor and dragged outside.

Sarena Abdallah, a senior in AHS, witnessed the altercation between Edwards and the employee outside the bar. 

“I just see out of the corner of my eye, one of the bouncers … pulling this girl outside by her arm,” Abdallah said. 

Abdallah had not seen Edwards hit the employee outside, although that could have occurred inside the bar. 

“He basically was dragging her by her arm, swung her over his shoulder, and then violently threw her down,” Abdallah said. “Like WWE, smacked her to the ground. So that’s when I was super alerted. I was like ‘What the hell?’” 

According to Abdallah, as Edwards was coming down, she hit her head on the concrete wall. 

“So automatically, she just started bleeding out of her head,” Abdallah said. “She was face down.”

Two police officers were helping Edwards as soon as the altercation occurred. 

“They were trying to look for a pulse,” Abdallah said. “They couldn’t find one on her wrist. They had to flip her over and check to see if they could find one on her neck and then moments after flipping her over, I personally saw her stomach moving up and down. So I knew that she was breathing.”

As this was occurring, Abdallah said the Red Lion employee “was just standing on the side the whole time and went inside at one point.”

Tom Petrilli, interim chief of police for the Champaign Police Department, said he had heard multiple different stories of the altercation at Red Lion.

“When we looked into it a little further, the victim in that incident was treated, released from the hospital, nothing serious, so it was a rather minor incident from what I understand,” Petrilli said in a video. “Something blew it out of proportion. In the end, in my opinion, it was not of significance.” 

Red Lion did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

After being taken to the hospital, Edwards received seven stitches on her temple and underwent a CT scan because doctors thought she might have had a concussion. Edwards stayed at the hospital for one night.

“My shoulder was so bruised and swollen,” Edwards said. “I could not sleep on it or anything.”

After the incident, Edwards said she felt “to be honest, kind of depressed.”

“My head hurt so bad, and I was just in shock that that could happen to me when I’m out with my friends,” Edwards said. “It’s just insane to me that a grown man would do that to me.”

Edwards said that she called a lawyer and is interested in pressing charges. She is still waiting for the lawyer to get back to her.

Other incidents have occurred at Red Lion in the past. Luke Rickel, a former University student who graduated in 2020, said he had a bad experience at Red Lion in January 2020. 

According to Rickel, a security person had told him to move away and was trying to walk through him, so Rickel stepped forward to where his friends were standing to allow the person to walk behind him. 

“I guess he wanted me to move back to go between us and so he essentially just yelled, ‘Get the f— out of my way,’ and he took his hand and put it on my shoulder and shoved me out of the way completely and knocked me into the metal barricades,” Rickel said. 

Rickel said he was not injured, and one of his friends had confronted the person at the register, saying, “Whoa, they just shoved my friend.”  

“The register just said ‘Oh do you have a problem?’ in a condescending and aggressive way,” Rickel said. 

According to Rickel, his experience is common with other situations where people are trying to get to the bar or trying to leave.

“They’re not causing a nuisance or anything and they’ll be grabbed or frisked or shoved out of the way,” Rickel said.


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