Kelsey McClellan had walked from the Cullom-Davis Library to her room in Williams Hall many, many times before Monday night.
So the sophomore was in a state of shock after being robbed while trekking back to her dorm about 11:50 p.m. Monday.
“I was walking along the sidewalk in front of Olin [Hall, near Elmwood Avenue],” she said. “I didn’t see the van … but I saw him walk past me, and I got this eerie feeling.”
That’s when she heard the man, who authorities were not able to catch, running toward her.
“By the time I realized there was something going on, he was already up to me,” McClellan said. “He grabbed my bag and swung to the front … then used it to push me down.
“At first, I thought ‘What is he going to do?’ and then I just wanted to be out of the situation. I’m still in shock.”
The man then ran to his idling car and sped off toward Bradley Avenue, getting away with her bag, which contained a laptop, notes, a cell phone charger and a pair of headphones.
Two people witnessed the robbery and called 911 immediately.
Peoria police were first on the scene and, along with the University Police, canvassed the area for the green Ford Windstar witnesses saw him driving. No one saw the man’s face, though.
McClellan didn’t end up with any injuries, spare some scraped knees and a sore arm, but the event has still left her with some scars.
“I’ve never felt unsafe on campus,” she said. “There’s always that bubble feeling. I won’t be going to the library for a while, and I won’t be carrying anything too valuable with me.”
Nobody ever thinks something like that will happen to them, McClellan said, but she still recommends every precaution be taken.
“It sounds stupid, but you should really [take the same precautions] during the week [and the weekends],” she said.
Police are still actively searching for the man and his van, University Police Chief Dave Baer said.
He also said Monday’s robbery was the first of its kind to happen within the campus proper in more than 20 years.
Crimes like that can be difficult to prevent, but Baer said by keeping an eye on your surroundings can be key to avoiding trouble.
“Make eye contact with people,” he said. “That let’s them know you’re not afraid of them.”