Around 5:30pm on Oct. 23, Millikin students received a Send Word Now alert warning them to avoid the area around 800 W. Wood. It said that the Decatur police were investigating a possible shooting in that vicinity. The suspect was described as a “black male with shoulder length hair, wearing a striped shirt and jeans.” Chris Ballard, head of Safety and Security at Millikin University, said that they were notified of the situation once the police started chasing the possible suspect. “They set up a perimeter, and that’s when we did the Send Word Now alert to warn students to avoid the area or to stay indoors if they were nearby,” explained Ballard. It was approximately an hour later when the police took down their perimeter, because it appeared that the suspect either took cover in a residence or was able to flee the immediate area. When asked if it was still under investigation, Ballard disclosed as much as he could. “It’s not my place to comment on that. I’m not sure what happened. As of last night [Oct. 23], they didn’t have anyone in custody.” The police deemed it was no longer a threat, and the active investigation was over.
Ballard shared some valuable safety tips that all students should know. “The key, number one thing is to be aware. Pay attention to your surroundings and what’s going on around you. Don’t be distracted.” Ballard said that the thing he hates to see the most is a student with their headphones in, texting while walking with their head down. Blocking off two essential senses is dangerous, especially at night or when crossing the street. The second key piece of advice he had was, “If you see something suspicious, report it.” It is always better to be safe than sorry. It is also a good idea to be familiar with where the blue lights are on campus, and to have Safety and Security’s number saved as a contact to your phone. Finally, Ballard advises that students actively plan to be safe. “When travelling, especially at night, stay in a group. Don’t wander around an unfamiliar part of town by yourself. And finally, always have two ways out of a situation.” It is essential to be safety-conscious anywhere you go. As Ballard said, the best thing you can do to keep safe is to refrain from distractions and be aware of what is going on around you. Checking Facebook or reading a text can wait until you get into a safe building.