After the Evanston Police Department dispatched to the crime scene, it took the University more than 30 minutes to issue a shelter-in-place order. The city never employed its emergency alert system. (Graphic by Wendy Zhu)
After the Evanston Police Department dispatched to the crime scene, it took the University more than 30 minutes to issue a shelter-in-place order. The city never employed its emergency alert system.

Graphic by Wendy Zhu

One dead and two injured in Clark Street Beach shooting, questions raised about NU and Evanston emergency communication

April 14, 2023

Content warning: This story contains mentions of gun violence and death. 

An 18-year-old is dead and two 15-year-old boys are injured following a Wednesday night shooting at Clark Street Beach. One of the boys is hospitalized in critical condition, while the other suffered a graze wound and has been released from the hospital, according to an Evanston Police Department news release. All three victims were Skokie residents. 

The family of the 18-year-old is likely processing and has not made a statement, according to an individual familiar with the family.

According to the EPD release, the offenders “immediately fled” into a vehicle and traveled north on Sheridan Road toward Northwestern’s Evanston Campus, according to the University’s Twitter and email updates. No suspects are currently in custody. At least one offender fired a handgun into a group with the victims. 

Evanston officials never employed their emergency alert system, and the University took more than 30 minutes to issue its shelter-in-place order, which lasted for slightly more than an hour. Clark Street Beach borders the south end of NU’s Evanston Campus. 

EPD Cmdr. Ryan Glew said Everbridge, the Evanston alert system, was not enabled because police determined the shooting was not a “random act” but a personal dispute.

Because there was no indication of an active shooter, he said, the city did not issue a shelter-in-place or any form of emergency alert. 

Instead, Glew said EPD communicated with Evanston residents through Twitter. EPD posted its first tweet concerning the shooting at 8:53 p.m. Wednesday. 

Glew said the gap in communication between when officers report to a scene and when EPD is able to notify the public is exacerbated later at night, when there are fewer staff available to check the credibility of each message. 

“We would ideally like that time to be a little tighter,” Glew said. “We have to have the people here in place, and they have to be informed with the correct information to push that out.” 

Mayor Daniel Biss told The Daily there should not be a “one-size-fits-all” solution for the city’s emergency notification system. 

“In this situation, the judgment (that) was made was that there was not a threat to others, beyond those who were present in the scene,” Biss said. “It’s a different type of communication, and you’ve got to design a communication plan that’s appropriate to the situation.” 

NU students also reported delays in communication. Some students said they heard gunshots by Clark Street Beach just before 8:10 p.m. Wednesday.

After the gunshots went off, the NU administration was silent for more than 30 minutes. No warnings were issued to students during that period, and students spread information unofficially through group chats and social media apps, though much of that information was false. 

At 8:42 p.m. Wednesday, the University announced its shelter-in-place order on Twitter. NU’s first email came shortly thereafter. Many students were already barricaded in nearby classrooms and dorms by that time. 

In an email to The Daily, NU spokesperson Jon Yates said University Police officers arrived on the scene of the crime at 8:15 p.m. Wednesday. According to Yates, NU sent its message across all platforms at 8:43 p.m. 

“The University sent the alert email, the text message and updated Twitter at exactly the same time,” Yates said in the email. “Because of the platform we use and the speed at which it can send thousands of emails at once, sometimes there are slight delays in when emails are received.”

The University did not respond to The Daily’s questions about why it first issued a shelter-in-place order more than 30 minutes after EPD was dispatched to the scene. 

Students reported receiving phone calls at staggered times at about 9:45 p.m. Wednesday from AlertNU. 

“University Police are responding to a report of a blank on the Evanston Campus at blank,” the call said. “Please avoid the area and await further info.” 

University President Michael Schill, Provost Kathleen Hagerty and Executive Vice President Craig Johnson acknowledged lapses in communication and confirmed the phone message was sent in error in an email to the NU community. 

In the email, the three said they have met with “key members of the leadership team” to discuss their emergency response and procedures, with a goal to “do better” in the future. 

“The first message went out roughly 30 minutes after shots were fired. We agree we should shorten that window,” Schill said in the email. “Our responsibility as a University is to communicate quickly and clearly, and to help you navigate the situation.” 

Even though Glew evaluated the situation as “secure” during an EPD press conference at about 9:40 p.m. Wednesday, NU continued to issue shelter-in-place orders through 9:57 p.m. 

Glew said EPD’s decision to not issue a citywide shelter-in-place order was not “intended to contradict” the University’s decision. 

“(NU has) to make their decisions based on their practices and priorities and the facts they have available. There’s a potentially higher risk attached to a University at a time when we look at incidents of violence,” Glew said. “Sometimes we have the same facts, but in the context of our respective missions, we may come to different decisions.” 

Below, The Daily has created a timeline of events related to the shooting: 

In the minutes before 8:10 p.m. Wednesday: Students on campus reported hearing gunshots near Clark Street Beach. 

8:10 p.m. Wednesday: EPD dispatched forces to the crime scene, according to Glew. 

8:15 p.m. Wednesday: NU police arrived on the scene, according to Yates. 

8:42 p.m. Wednesday: NU’s Twitter issued a shelter-in-place order. The tweet said the suspects fled north toward the Evanston Campus. 

Starting at 8:43 p.m. Wednesday: NU Chief of Police Bruce Lewis, who is also the University’s senior associate vice president of safety and security, sent a campuswide email to issue a shelter-in-place order. 

8:47 p.m. Wednesday: AlertNU texts were sent to University community members ordering them to shelter in place. 

8:53 p.m. Wednesday: An EPD tweet said there was no indication of an active shooter. 

9:08 p.m. Wednesday: An EPD tweet said there were two male gunshot victims who had been transported to an area hospital. A NU tweet from the time said no offenders were in custody, but that they had fled north on Sheridan Road. EPD added there did not “appear to be a continued threat.” In a separate tweet from the same time, EPD said none of the victims were NU students. 

9:16 p.m. Wednesday: An EPD tweet said Sheridan Road was closed between Davis Street and Clark Street. 

About 9:40 p.m. Wednesday: EPD hosted a press conference. Glew released the age estimates and statuses of the victims. While he said EPD evaluated the situation as secure, NU kept enforcing its shelter-in-place order. Yates said the University continued its shelter-in-place protocol until it was “confident the campus was secure” and community members were not at risk. 

9:57 p.m. Wednesday: The University lifted its shelter-in-place order with an announcement on Twitter, an email from Lewis and an AlertNU “all clear” message. 

10:00 p.m. Wednesday: An EPD tweet said the investigation indicated two offenders. No suspects were in custody. 

7:37 a.m. Thursday: An EPD tweet said Sheridan Road was open, but parts of Clark Street Beach and the surrounding park and path remained closed to the public as police conducted its investigation. 

11:03 a.m. Thursday: An email from the Evanston Parks and Recreation Department said EPD released the crime scene at Clark Street Beach, as well as the park space around it.

11:58 a.m. Thursday: Schill, Hagerty and Johnson sent their first formal update to the University community after the Wednesday shooting. 

2:35 p.m. Thursday: EPD distributed a press release with the name of the victim, 18-year-old Jacquis Irby, and provided updates on the statuses of the two 15-year-old victims. 

Shannon Tyler and Aviva Bechky contributed reporting. 

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @joannah_11

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