I was underground with an active shooter this summer. A man standing on the Jackson Red Line platform Aug. 17 fired a gun at another man just after a Howard Street-bound train pulled in. The victim, who was inside the train, was shot twice but survived.
A group of 20 or so people were fighting—yelling, pushing and running around the platform—as Zoë Haworth, The Chronicle’s art director, and I were waiting for a train home just before 8 p.m. Tensions escalated quickly, and Haworth and I had just a split second to decide whether to board the train that had just pulled up or take the stairs to the street. As the doors opened, we darted in, along with some other frightened bystanders. Just before the doors closed again, we heard two shots ring out, but it’s been reported that there could have been up to six.
The doors reopened and didn’t close again as everyone who was left on the platform—including some who were on the train—ran toward the stairs. Haworth, I and the rest of the passengers on our train car didn’t move.
We were confused and partially frozen. The gunshots were so quiet. I’ve heard guns shot before—even shot a couple myself—and they were always so loud.
When we were sure the coast was clear, Haworth and I followed some other passengers out of the station and waited inside the Barnes & Noble on State Street for almost an hour as emergency vehicles came and went, and the victim was loaded onto a stretcher and into an ambulance.
As I compulsively scanned Twitter and news sites for any reports or updates on what had just happened, I wondered how long it would take Columbia to put out a security alert to the college community, warning them about a shooter in the area. But three weeks later, there has yet to be one.
Though not technically a part of Columbia’s campus, the Jackson stop is frequented by many Columbia students and is just a block from the Arc at Old Colony building, which will house students starting this year.
According to an Aug. 31 Chicago Sun-Times article, police have charged 24-year-old Kornell Strenger with the crime. But there are still new and returning students arriving on campus with no knowledge that a shooting occurred in a neighborhood that is considered safer than most.
With the Jackson shooting and the Aug. 6 armed robbery at the Harrison Red Line stop, which the Office of Safety and Security alerted students to via email, Columbia needs to make clear what it is doing for students who live near these stops or take the Red Line home from class.
DePaul University was the only college nearby that released a campus safety alert about the shooting that was available to the public. The alert was posted the same day as the shooting. The School of the Art Institute of Chicago did not publish an alert and did not immediately hear about the shooting, according to SAIC’s Executive Director of Campus Security John Pack. Roosevelt University’s Campus Safety Department declined to comment on the matter.
So this lack of communication isn’t just a Columbia problem. Students, no matter their college, need to be assured that their safety is a top priority.
Columbia is taking steps by including safety seminars in the Engage Columbia program during welcome weeks, but more needs to be done—and fast.
The reason for not alerting college communities to this event is still unclear, but whether it was a conscious decision or an oversight doesn’t matter. What matters is that students need to feel safe anywhere on their campus, even if that campus is nearly 15 city blocks wide.