A Drake sophomore died this afternoon after sustaining major injuries from an assault in Warren County early Tuesday morning.
Business student Benjamin Backstrom was transported to Iowa Methodist Medical Center after law enforcement officers found him leaning over the side of a bridge on U.S. Highway 65, four miles north of Indianola at around 1:30 a.m., according to the Iowa Department of Public Safety. He was pronounced dead this afternoon.
Officials are treating the case as a homicide.
The Division of Criminal Investigation will not know the cause of death until the Polk County Medical Examiners Office performs an autopsy.
There is no information available at this time regarding why Backstrom was in Warren County last night or how he ended up on this bridge.
Drake University President David Maxwell said that Dean of Students Sentwali Bakari contacted him at 4 a.m. this morning and was monitoring the situation all day.
Bakari said that he has had minimal contact with the Backstrom family but did say that the family wants to keep the matter as private as possible.
“Our primary concern is with the well-being of Drake students, and we certainly want to express our condolences to the Backstrom family,” Bakari said at a press conference Tuesday afternoon.
Bakari, who taught Backstrom in his first-year seminar on leadership, said that he will be solely missed.
“He was involved on campus and did all the things he was asked to do in class; participating in all the activities,” Bakari said. “Perhaps a little more reserved guy, but a fun guy to be around.”
Official reports did not mention any other student involvement.
Maxwell informed the Drake community of Backstrom’s death around 5 p.m. this afternoon through an e-mail:
“It is with great sorrow that I write to inform you of the passing of a member of the Drake family. Early on the morning of Tuesday, April 27, sophomore Benjamin Backstrom was the victim of an off-campus violent crime. I want to express sincere condolences to the family and friends who shared in Ben’s life. Known for his thoughtfulness, Ben will live on in the memories of each and every person he touched.
“Incomprehensibly tragic events such as this test the very fabric of the Drake University family. It is a time when we as a community must come together to console and support one another, to do what we can to ease the pain for Ben’s family and friends, and to find a way forward that honors Ben’s memory and the place that he holds in the heart of the University.
“We will continue to provide updates as they become available and provide information to the campus community once a memorial has been planned. If you would like to share a memory of Ben with the Backstrom family, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or drop off a note in the Office of Marketing and Communications on the third floor of Old Main. We will ensure that your messages are delivered to the family, and we are doing everything that we can to support Ben’s family at this time.
“Please know that the care and support of our campus community are of utmost importance to me and to all members of the administration, faculty and staff. We are reaching out to all faculty, staff and students, including those who lived near Ben, to provide someone to talk to or for grief counseling.
“Counselors are available through the Counseling Center, located in the Student Health Building, and can be contacted at 515-271-3864. The telephone line is staffed 24 hours a day with resources and access to someone with whom you can talk. For those who are grieving, I encourage you to reach out to a friend, counselor, minister, rabbi, priest or trusted confidant to talk through your emotions.
“Drake University is participating fully in the investigation, which is being led by the Warren County Sheriff’s Office and the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation (DCI). The DCI confirmed for campus administrators that there is no imminent threat or danger to anyone on campus. We encourage anyone on campus with information in this case to call the Sheriff’s Office at 515-961-1122.”
This is the second student death this year. Victorya Van-Pelt passed away in September from complications related to upper-respiratory distress.
Check back with The Times-Delphic with updates.