STORY BY AUSTIN CANNON
Drake University Public Safety and the Des Moines Police Department responded to a pair of shootings near campus last week.
The first occurred Sept. 17 at around 7:15 p.m. on the corner of University Avenue and 23rd Street in front of the Platinum Kutz barbershop. The victim was shot in the left buttock and transported to Mercy Hospital.
The second incident happened in the McDonald’s parking lot on the corner of Forest Avenue and 30th Street early Saturday morning. At close to 12:30 a.m., a 19-year-old male was shot in the leg.
Both victims were members of the Des Moines community, not Drake students.
In both cases, Drake Public Safety sent out campus-wide Bulldog Alerts within minutes of the shootings being reported.
Any time DPS sends out Bulldog Alerts there is concern, especially if it’s twice in four days.
“As you can imagine, we had a number of parents, students, faculty and staff who were concerned about safety with those events occurring so close to campus,” said Scott Law, director of DPS.
Vice President of Student Life Josh Duden was with friends at the time of Saturday’s shooting, and most of the people around him found the Bulldog Alert concerning.
“It kind of sparked a little bit of panic at the time because you never really know how to respond in the instance when you’re like, ‘Please stay inside. Avoid this area,’” Duden said.
Duden did his best to field his fellow students’ questions but also focused on keeping those around him safe.
“The Des Moines Police Department was responding along with Drake Public Safety, and we were kind of just trying to roll with the punches at the time,” Duden said. “I was trying to make sure people didn’t leave.”
DPS reacted to each shooting by increasing patrols, placing officers at strategic spots at the edges of campus and calling in extra manpower. Law wanted the additional presence to assure Drake students and staff that DPS was doing its best to keep everything safe and under control.
“Public Safety staff did an excellent job of responding to those situations,” Law said.
DMPD also increased its patrols around the Drake neighborhood and even parked its patrol cars in Drake parking lots to deter any other potential crime.
Law thought both shootings and their proximity to each other were isolated incidents, noting that crime rates in the Drake area are actually down over the past year. But, that doesn’t mean it’s totally absent.
“As I often remind everyone, low crime doesn’t mean no crime,” Law said.
Law urged students to make sure their Bulldog Alert contact information is up-to-date and to travel in groups and with caution when off campus.
After the initial panic died down on Saturday morning, Duden witnessed a change of attitude in his classmates. A change that made the best out of a troubling instance.
“It switched less from being like, ‘What’s happening?’ to ‘How can we help and make sure people are safe?’” Duden said. “It kind of created an environment that was positive, where this inherently negative thing got to switch to being a positive community where we were helping each other and watching out for one another.”