Students report confusion in 30-minute gap between shooting and shelter-in-place order


Daily file photo by Seeger Gray

Northwestern’s Evanston Campus. Students took shelter across the University as they heard about a shooting at nearby Clark Street Beach on Wednesday.

Avani Kalra, Print Managing Editor

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

At about 8:10 p.m. on Wednesday night, Weinberg sophomore Lianna Amoruso heard gunshots. She was enjoying the sunshine on the southern tip of the Lakefill when she heard screams and saw people running. She grabbed her friends and started sprinting north. 

By 8:30 p.m., Amoruso barricaded herself into a Kellogg Global Hub room with several other students. Shortly afterwards, she called University Police. 

The police officer told Amoruso the situation fell under the Evanston Police Department’s responsibility, not UP’s. Amoruso said the UP officer told her she could walk outside with her friends. 

“He said, ‘You’re safe on campus,’” Amoruso said. 

It wasn’t until 8:43 p.m. that Amoruso received her first official communication from Northwestern, in the form of a text. It read: “EMERGENCY: SHELTER IN PLACE.” 

“Hearing all of the shots was really, really bad,” Amoruso said. “But all the unknowns were causing so much more panic.”

Students first reported shots shortly before 8:10 p.m. on Clark Street Beach, which is located just south of campus. The tragedy left one Skokie teenager dead and two others wounded. 

According to the EPD, there was never an active shooting threat to the University. The incident was a personal dispute located off campus, and the department determined that others in the area were not at risk.

The family of the deceased are likely keeping private for the time being, according to someone familiar with the family.

EPD and UP arrived at the scene within minutes, but students didn’t receive official confirmation or instruction from NU for more than 30 minutes. 

While students like Amoruso were sharing what they’d experienced in group chats and on social media, EPD and the University said suspects fled on foot and then headed north — toward NU’s Evanston Campus — in a vehicle.

Communication freshman Emerson Steady said he was in Kresge Hall when he heard about the shots. Kresge does not require Wildcard access to enter the building. 

Steady said they and their friends hunkered in the corner of a classroom and called UP. 

UP said a shooting took place at South Beach, but told Steady the responsible parties had been taken into custody, he said. At 8:30 p.m., he said UP said it was safe to leave the building. 

As of Wednesday night, the suspects are still unaccounted for. NU’s first shelter-in-place order was sent out to students at 8:42 p.m. An update at 8:47 p.m. told students to continue sheltering.

“I was grateful for the people I was with, that we still took precautions, but I was just so angry at the school,” Steady said. “They put our lives fully at risk and could have gotten us killed. Which is a crazy thing for your school to do.” 

Kresge wasn’t the only building on campus that was not secured. Weinberg junior Kendall McKay said she was outside Locy Hall when she heard the gunshots. Immediately after she entered, she said neither the building nor the room she sheltered in were locked. 

Norris University Center’s front doors are also usually unlocked. Communication senior Jonathan Van De Loo is a Norris manager. He was working Wednesday night when his coworker called and said she thought she had heard shots at Clark Street Beach. 

Van De Loo rolled out the protocol he’d been taught as a Norris employee: He told events in Norris to halt their proceedings and gathered students into locked rooms. 

“The only thing that was concrete was that there were gunshots,” he said. “So in my mind, I was like, ‘I know that I can tell people quickly where to go, and I know that there are multiple places in this building where people can be safe.’”

University spokesperson Jon Yates did not respond to The Daily’s questions about flawed communication with Norris staff. University President Michael Schill said in a statement Thursday morning that the administration has asked for a review of NU facilities after concerns that some buildings were difficult to lock.

Administrators lifted the lockdown and gave students the all-clear at 9:57 p.m.

On Thursday morning, many students shuffled into classes, took quizzes and completed their homework assignments. Amoruso said she barely heard from her professors about the shooting and campus-wide lockdown.

Amoruso said she had difficulty sleeping Wednesday night, because she kept tossing and turning.

“This morning, I woke up and laid in bed and couldn’t move,” she said. “I just felt really numb and I didn’t know how to go back to normal. It was so weird, that after all that, we were just expected to return to normalcy.”

On campus, NU students can find mental health support via Counseling and Psychological Services in person and 24/7 virtual support via TimelyCare. University employees can also access the 24/7 Employee Assistance Program. Evanston residents can access support through Trilogy Behavioral Healthcare’s Crisis Line, 800FACT400, Call4Calm’s text line 552020, or by calling 988. 

Email: [email protected] 

Twitter: @avanidkalra  

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