The relationship between Springfield College and the campus community has long been a complicated one. That has never been more true than over the past few days.
On Tuesday, a large portion of SC students, faculty and staff participated in the 14th-annual Humanics In Action Day.
However, three days earlier, the harsh reality of living in a city was made apparent after a spree of criminal activity within two blocks of campus left students both injured and shaken.
It is difficult to piece together the full sequence of events but after interviewing eyewitnesses, and Springfield College Campus Chief of Police Judy Jackson, and reviewing a criminal incident report from the city’s police department, a basic picture begins to emerge.
Shortly after midnight Saturday [Sept. 24], three violent crimes took place between the Living Center and Six Corners:
•A male student was assaulted and struck on the back of the head by a blunt object, believed to be a sawed-off shotgun, after being approached by a group of six men. The student suffered minor injuries and had his iPhone stolen, according to an incident report obtained from the Springfield City Police Department.
•Another male student had his necklace ripped off his neck and hat stolen after being confronted by what is believed to be the same group of men, according to Jackson.
•According to eyewitnesses, a group of men arrived at an off-campus party on Alden Street with over 100 students in attendance and pointed a shotgun at a resident of the house. Also, another resident of the house was assaulted by a member of the group.
Jackson said that three men have been arrested for armed robbery in the wake of these instances.
While many students refused to comment, the accounts of some eyewitnesses painted a frightening picture.
“You could hear your typical standoff before a fight,” said junior Roger John Reidy, who was at the party. “Then I’m looking back and forth and I take a look, and this guy has a shotgun and he is saying, ‘Everybody get the [expletive] out. Everybody get the [expletive] out.’”
Senior Chelsey Dumond was in the backyard and said the party was like any other with small groups chatting and just hanging out until things took an unexpected turn.
“Honestly, it was really weird because I was standing there with people, and all of a sudden, you hear, ‘That’s a shotgun! That guy’s got a gun! That guy’s got a gun!’” Dumond said. “I almost felt my body like freeze for a minute, and you have to stop and process it. Then it’s like, wait a second, is this really happening?”
Reidy was hanging out with friends prior to seeing the gun when he noticed a group of four to five black men dressed in dark clothing approach the party. Reidy heard one of the residents of the household yell at the group, “Get back, this is a college-only party!” The residents and the group then moved to the front of the house. At this point, some students were trying to also make their way to the front of the house, so Reidy attempted to keep the crowd back.
During this altercation, witnesses said the shotgun was pointed at one resident of the off-campus house, and another was punched in the face and later kicked while on the ground.
Residents of the off-campus house on Alden Street declined to comment.
Jackson said Springfield College Public Safety had no record of the gun being pointed at a resident or an assault at the off-campus house. However, officers on patrol saw a large group of students outside the house and were informed that someone had a shotgun. Springfield College patrol units then drove down Alden Street where they discovered the two armed robbery victims closer to campus, said Jackson.
Both of these students, who live on campus, were confronted in separate incidents.
The alleged perpetrators, one armed with a sawed-off shotgun, approached the students and stole several items.
According to a Springfield City Police Department incident report, one of the student victims was assaulted and “struck on the back of the head with a blunt object” around 12:15 a.m. in front of 170 Alden Street.
The student turned around and was struck again on the left side of the face, later telling police he was struck by a sawed-off shotgun. After repeatedly being punched and kicked on the ground, the student asked the male with the sawed-off shotgun what the group wanted. The victim then turned over his iPhone, and the men took off towards Eastern Avenue.
The other victim, according to Jackson, reportedly had his necklace ripped off and his hat stolen.
Jackson also informed The Student of an attempted robbery at another off-campus house on King Street on Saturday. A student’s Vera Bradley bag was stolen by an off-campus male. She later got her bag back with her cell phone inside after residents of the King Street house found the thief’s cell phone and brokered a deal. However, the thief did not return the student’s IDs.
It is unknown if there is any connection between the Alden Street crimes and the incident on King Street, but Jackson believes the two robberies on Alden Street are connected.
“They are connected,” said Jackson. “There is no doubt about it.”
“The first one [victim] we knew about was the kid who had his chain ripped from his neck and his hat stolen,” Jackson added. “The second victim was the kid who got hit from behind, got hit a couple of times and then chose to stop fighting.”
One of the victims was able to identify three of the suspects, Jackson said.
“When Springfield caught three [suspects] and brought them back to do an identification, one had his [the victim’s] hat on and one had what he was wearing around his neck prior,” Jackson said.
Luckily, there were no major injuries in any of the incidents Saturday night, yet Jackson understands even the most minor incidents have a major impact on students.
“We can basically try and control the minor. For victims, nothing is minor. When you lose your laptop, there goes everything you had on it,” Jackson said. “But in relationship to protecting and insuring the safety of the students, personal safety always outweighs property. You can always replace the property, but you can never replace the person or the trauma they have been through.”
Dumond said it was one of the only times in her life that she was ever truly frightened. More importantly, it was the first time she felt unsafe at Springfield College.
“That is the first time I was legitimately scared, not knowing what’s going to happen,” Dumond said. “And I have never been scared [at Springfield College] before.”
It was a moment of panic for many as students started hopping the fence and running for cover in the ensuing chaos of the night. Witnesses said there was a group of students huddled against the house, some in tears.
Some students went straight back to their rooms, while Reidy and others began to walk into the Richard B. Flynn Campus Union, trying to make sense of their very frightening night.
Students with any information are encouraged to contact Public Safety at 413-748-5555
Justin Felisko may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org