By Miriam Brown
Colorado Springs police say witnesses told them a man in a ski mask fired a gun at someone following a brief struggle and attempted robbery near campus over block break, but no one was injured. The incident didn’t involve anyone from Colorado College. Police made no arrests.
Nick Calkins, the associate director of Campus Safety, says the incident is unique because of its nature.
“We don’t really have a lot of robberies that happen on campus,” Calkins told The Catalyst. “We certainly don’t have a lot of incidences where someone’s using a weapon to try and rob people.”
Here’s what went down on Friday, Oct. 18 around 11 p.m., according to a Colorado Springs Police Department report posted online: three adults said they were walking home when they were approached near the corner of Nevada and Dale by a suspect with a handgun, who demanded money.
The report goes on to state that a victim struggled with the suspect and then ran — at which point the suspect fired a shot in their direction and fled. A CC alert sent via email at 1:08 a.m. on Saturday, Oct. 19 said that the suspect fled toward the CC campus.
Though Campus Safety says none of the alleged victims were members of the CC community, witnesses told police the incident happened less than half a mile from South Hall. At the time, many CC students were off-campus for block break, but for some still around, an emergency notification from Campus Safety urging recipients to stay inside caused concern.
“CC Alert: CSPD is looking for a suspect downtown,” a text notification, sent at 11:30 p.m. on Oct. 18, read. “Description: Unknown race male. Clothing: White sweatshirt, Black pants. Contact Campus Safety or CSPD.”
At the time of the first alert, Bryn Aprill ’23 was on campus in a downstairs lounge.
“I was honestly pretty freaked out, given the proximity to campus and how late it was,” Aprill said. “I was sitting in the first floor lounge of Mathias when I got the alert and so being near all those windows didn’t feel super comfortable after that.”
At 1:08 a.m. the following morning, Campus Safety sent out an email notification.
“CC Alert: This is Colorado College Campus Safety,” it read. “The emergency condition reported earlier has ended.”
The message went on to describe the location and conditions of the robbery, and explained that after CSPD and Campus Safety investigated they determined there was no longer an “immediate danger to campus.”
One thing was noticeably different from the notifications from Campus Safety and the report from Colorado Springs Police — the mention of a gunshot.
Calkins said the initial police report to college authorities noted an armed robbery but nothing about a gun going off. At that point, Calkins said, Campus Safety couldn’t really confirm a weapon was involved. They receive information at different points in time during an incident, he said.
“If we get a report of shots being fired, that’s going to up the threat level, certainly,” he said, “so that certainly would’ve played in with whatever threat determination level we had made.”
Because the incident happened over block break, Calkins says the community impact was “much smaller” and a lot more “manageable” than if it had been during a typical block.
However, the crime is noteworthy for being “an outlier” within CC’s data set, Calkins said.
“I do pull up statistics and calls that have occurred on campus or in the close vicinity, and there really isn’t a lot,” Colorado Springs police officer Sid Santos, who also serves as the college’s campus resource officer, told The Catalyst. “It’s pretty quiet. I can’t think of any major incidents that have occurred since I’ve been here, end of August.”
In 2016, the National Center for Education Statistics reported 1,100 robberies on campuses of degree-granting postsecondary institutions. On the other hand, from 2016 to 2018, authorities reported no robberies on CC’s campus, in residence halls, or on public property, according to Campus Safety’s 2019 Annual Security Report.
Calkins and Santos say the most frequent violations are stolen bikes and trespassing — effects, they say, of the “open” layout of CC’s campus and the presence of main thoroughfares like Cascade and Nevada that run through campus.
But despite the rarity of emergency notifications alerting people to potentially criminal activity on or near the college, some students were skateboarding around campus minutes after the first notification, and Calkins said they only got one response.
“Somebody responded back and said that they had graduated already and they wanted to be removed from the distribution list,” Calkins said. “That was the only one I heard about.”