On Tuesday at around 10:30 p.m., life for Western Illinois University students changed in the blink of an eye.
As Thompson students evacuated the building for what seemed like an accidental fire alarm, it soon became clear that this was an entirely different situation. While one or two fire trucks usually handle the alarms, ambulances raced to the scene and students began to piece together what was happening. While gunshots rang out on the 12th floor, many students were oblivious to the events happening just a few floors away.
Junior student Gretchen Maier said, “I was in Thompson at the time of the shooting. At first, the alarm went off and everyone just assumed it was a regular fire alarm, but when we went outside, I saw multiple police officers run into the building. Seeing this, I knew something was wrong. While I did not hear the gunshots from my room, my friend told me that he heard all five. All of the Resident Assistants did a great job keeping everyone back and helping people stay calm. Everyone was listening to the police scanner but no one really knew what to believe. After a while, students were ushered into Western Hall and given the option to remain there or to go off campus.”
The shooting, which began as a roommate dispute, was perpetrated by freshman student Kavion Poplous in the dorm room shared by him and the victim. He has been charged with attempted first-degree murder, aggravated battery and aggravated discharge of a firearm and is now in custody. After fleeing the scene, Poplous turned himself in at a Chicago police station on Wednesday. He is being held on a $1 million dollar bond.
Immediately after the shooting, social media was flooded with panicked students telling their peers to lock their doors and stay inside. While Poplous fled to Chicago, students and authorities believed he was still at large, armed and dangerous within the city limits of Macomb. The panic lasted well into Wednesday morning when it was released that Poplous turned himself in.
As for the victim, Interim President Martin Abraham said, “We cannot share further updates regarding the student who was shot. His family has asked for privacy during this time, and we are respecting their wishes. We are in contact with them, and we ask that you send well wishes to him, his family, and friends for a full recovery.”
Classes were cancelled on Wednesday and counseling services have been offered to students as well as members of the housing staff that were on the frontlines of this crisis. The University Counseling Center can be reached by calling (309) 298-2453. All services are free and confidential. As President Abraham said, “This is a shared experience, and we will heal together.”