While a female student was walking to an off-campus residence, two non-student males approached her, one displaying a handgun, in the 1500 block of Fredonia at 9:37 p.m. April 13. The actions that followed the incident, however, have left many Bradley students questioning campus safety notification policies.
According to a poll conducted by The Scout, 196 of the survey’s 255 respondents heard about the incident either through social media or by word of mouth. Exactly 201 of the 255 respondents said they believe the university did not react appropriately regarding communication of the armed robbery to the students.
“We absolutely agree there was a danger to the community, and we readily acknowledge that it should have come out faster,” BUPD Chief Brian Joschko said of the Safety Alert email notification. “I want to clarify that was my decision alone. We were about to hit send when I was called and told [we found a possible person of interest]. I made the decision rather than provide information I did not believe was accurate to provide updated and accurate information at a later time. I absolutely 100 percent own that.”
Joschko said a foreWarn text message was not utilized because his officers’ training and experience with armed robbery assisted in making the judgment call that a Safety Alert was the appropriate means through which to notify students of the situation.
A foreWarn text message, as explained on the BUPD webpage, is meant to provide an immediate set of instructions to students, specifically with regard to the need to “take shelter” or “take shelter-in-place,” evacuate buildings or enter into lock downs. Joschko said this was not the case for the April 13 armed robbery.
“This is where we go back to the officers making professional judgment based on training and experience in circumstances like [this one],” he said. “Oftentimes, individuals are not going to cause harm toward others [following an armed robbery] because they’re trying to get away. The person with the handgun fleeing the scene [was] not going toward people, and there’s no evidence [he] would have inflicted harm against others.”
University Spokesperson Renee Charles said the consequences of the poor communication surrounding the incident were not the only problems BUPD and the university faced that night.
“This was the perfect scenario of what can go wrong will go wrong, and this is not typically how things are handled, but we are reviewing everything to enhance safety on campus,” Charles said. “We want to do everything we can to keep people safe, and we will continue to review our policies and our procedures to make sure we are following best practices.”
Joschko joined BUPD Captain Troy Eeten in detailing the night’s events, beginning with the armed robbery and ending with the sending of the Safety Alert to students nearly two hours later.
“There’s a balance between obtaining information and having compassion for the victim,” Eeten said, describing the importance of providing time for victims to calm down following incidents such as armed robberies. “When we had enough information that we had suspect descriptions, we immediately began a search.”
Eeten said one of the officers in a police vehicle spotted the two suspects at the same time the two suspects had spotted him shortly after the search began. The officer immediately exited his vehicle and began to run after the men.
“Our officer told me, ‘I was basically right on the heels of the one guy, and then I face-planted,’” Eeten said. “There is no doubt in my mind that [the officer] would have gotten him, but he tripped and fell in pursuit.”
When the officer fell, BUPD asked the victim to assist officers in a new plan of using the Find My iPhone app to track her cell phone’s location.
“The cell phone showed it was in the 1800 block of Bradley Avenue on the south side of the street,” Eeten said. “Officers located the victim’s backpack in the alley…An officer then located an individual laying on a porch with a railing that wasn’t visible from the street. [Officers] gave [the suspect] verbal commands, he complied, and then he…was taken into custody. A subsequent search was done, and [officers] found her iPhone in his pocket.”
Joschko said BUPD did not have confirmation the person taken into custody was a suspect until 10:46 p.m., 14 minutes after the male was apprehended at 10:32 p.m. Joschko said the department then had to determine which of the two suspects it was.
“We confirmed that at 11:03 p.m.,” he said. “I then sent out [the Safety Alert] for review to the person who was supposed to review it, but I sent the wrong version to the person reviewing it. I eventually got the right version to the reviewer, and then it was confirmed at 11:14 p.m.”
Joschko said as soon as he received the reviewer’s confirmation, he sent out the email to the campus at 11:16 p.m.
Senior special education major Joe Waytula said, despite the lack of details immediately following the incident, he believed the failure to send out an official notification in a reasonable time was unacceptable.
“I was initially very confused why I had not received an alert and was questioning if the reports were even true,” Waytula said, after he received notification of the armed robbery by word of mouth. “I feel extremely disheartened that the police failed to notify me that it may have been unsafe to walk around campus when there were two armed men at-large.”
Waytula decided to take action, and he drafted a petition on Change.org calling students to take a stand and ask for a revision of current safety notification policies.
“The Safety Alert issued was not timely, and there was both a serious and continuing threat to the campus for two hours following the armed robbery at 9:37 p.m.,” he wrote in the petition. “Regardless of whether the police had sufficient information to send a fully detailed report, students should have been immediately notified of a security risk on campus and instructed to stay indoors until further notice.”
The petition garnered feedback and more than 800 signatures within 24 hours of its launch.
“Our petition has already reached current, former and potential Bradley students,” he wrote. “Parents, alumni and other concerned community members have also joined the cause. We need to continue the momentum so that the university administration recognize the severity of this issue and immediately work to correct it.”
Waytula said it is better to be provided limited information and be prepared than to know nothing and left to wonder “what if.”
Joschko said all students are invited to discuss safety or security concerns with him and that he welcomes feedback and safety alert policy ideas from the campus community.
The victim was not harmed, and her property was returned. Both suspects have been arrested.
Monday, April 13
- Female student robbed in 1500 block of Fredonia Avenue
- Female ran to Sigma Delta Tau sorority house for help calling the police
- Three police units responded to the scene
- Officers began speaking with victim
- Descriptions of two suspects were collected and search began
- Officer spotted two suspects and pursued them on foot but tripped and lost sight of the two suspects
- Victim’s backpack was found in the alley
- K9 unit worked to track scent
- Victim aided officers in using Find My iPhone to locate her belongings
- Phone app led officers to 1800 block of Bradley Avenue
- First draft of Safety Alert was prepared to send but was not sent
- Officers discovered male hiding on a porch
- Male, believed to be suspect, was taken into custody
- Male taken into custody was confirmed as suspect #1
- Updated Safety Alert draft was sent to reviewer by Chief Joschko
- Chief Joschko was notified he sent wrong draft of the Safety Alert; sent correct draft to reviewer immediately
- Reviewer confirmed Safety Alert, returned it to Chief Joschko
- Email Safety Alert sent out to campus