BY KATHERINE BAUER
On April 21, Des Moines police were called to a robbery in an apartment parking lot on 35th street. They arrived to find 41-year-old Stephen Pausuan Kim wounded from gunshots. He was taken to a hospital where he was pronounced dead.
It was the 11th homicide in Des Moines this year, and it occurred just west of the Drake Park Apartments. Several Drake students, including junior Gerry Tetzlaff, live in Drake Park.
The news and history double major said he didn’t find out about the incident until 12 hours later when he went into work at a local TV station.
“I actually looked up the homicide,” Tetzlaff said. “And that’s when I find out it was out my back door.”
Tetzlaff said he couldn’t believe that Drake Public Safety hadn’t issued a Bulldog Alert.
“I felt light-headed,” Tetzlaff said. “It took me back. I was surprised that we hadn’t heard just because (it’s) a horrific crime.”
Tetzlaff said the Bulldog Alert could have helped to alert his roommates about the incident.
“I had two roommates in town, out and about,” Tetzlaff said. “My apartment door isn’t this deadbolt, 17-lock thing. These people are running around looking for a place to go. What’s it take for them to kick it down? I wish I had known to be on guard, not just asleep in my bed.”
Students never received a Bulldog Alert for the incident. Director of Public Safety Scott Law explained why no alert was ever issued. He said that a Des Moines police officer, hired by Drake to work on campus three nights a week, heard about the reported robbery on the police scanner.
“We did hear that there was a robbery over our scanner, but that was the last we heard about it,” Law said. “The Des Moines officer didn’t hear about (the homicide) until later.”
DPS didn’t learn about the homicide until three hours after it had occurred, according to Law.
“We use Bulldogs Alerts to warn students of a threat to them at the moment,” Law said. “After talking with (the Des Moines Police Department), thinking about it … we did not believe the suspects were probably still in the area. They did not pose an immediate threat to our students.”
Law sent an email to campus on April 24, three days after the homicide, to address concerns he had heard from students and parents.
“We were getting a lot of feedback from people that we hadn’t said anything,” Law said. “I thought it was important … that we let people know what we knew. That’s really why we did it.”
In the email, Law stated, “Students and parents have reached out directly to my office to question why we did not issue a Bulldog Alert … After consulting with (police), and although the perpetrators remain at large, it was clear that issuing a Bulldog Alert at that time would not have contributed to campus safety.”
Law said that his department tries to ensure Bulldog Alerts don’t become white noise to students. He said his team aims to have pieces of information about the incidents that would be helpful to students.
“We had no suspect description, nothing to give people,” Law said. “I could’ve informed them of the incident, but I’m not sure we could have given students much information that they could’ve used for their safety.”
Law explained that, had he and the officers on duty known sooner that a homicide had occurred, he would have sent a Bulldog Alert immediately.
A Bulldog Alert was sent out Monday morning, in regards to a different incident.
Law said the Des Moines police officer, now employed by Drake seven days a week for the rest of the semester, heard a domestic incident report on the scanner. Des Moines police were in pursuit of a suspect headed toward 34th Street, where most of Drake’s sorority and fraternity houses are located.
“We didn’t want any of our students out and running into someone who could be dangerous,” Law said.
Tetzlaff said he thinks Bulldog Alerts remain a useful tool for campus safety.
“At the end of the day, it’s two text messages, two phone calls, two emails,” Tetzlaff said. “You feel a little bit more safe. I feel like some people get annoyed. But, at the end of the day, they do pay off because they’re there for our safety.”
Tetzlaff expressed that he was glad that there had been an alert for that incident.
Law reminded students that students should report something they see that appears to be dangerous. Drake Public Safety can be reached at 515-271-2222 and 811 for emergencies