Sunday, November 9, 2008

Bullet Fires Investigation on Campus

To follow-up on my post regarding a fired bullet that was found on campus last week, I'd first like to thank Dean Carlson and campus safety for responding in the manner they did.

On Friday, the day after I posted, I was informed that campus safety and the River Forest police were investigating the area I described where the bullet was found. Two officers and DU's Joel Nayder, of campus safety, examined the area searching for any other signs of fire arms or gun fire.

"The police and I found no evidence of anything being shot on campus. There were no casings or damage to any property," Nayder said. "Judging from the pictures, we guessed that (the bullet) had not been shot from a close range. But that is just a guess."

Nayder also went on to explain that bullets can travel for miles. If a person shoots a gun up into the air, the bullet may not come down for several miles. Officer Murillo, who was part of the investigation, also said that this could have been a possibility.
The original post was published at 3:40 p.m. on Thursday. Nayder informed me that Dean Carlson emailed campus safety Friday at 11:48 p.m. Campus safety then contacted River Forest police at 11:50 a.m. and they responded to Dominican's call by 12:02 p.m.

Being the thorough reporter I am, I went to the police station, spoke with Officer Murillo and filed a Freedom of Information Request for the police report. I arrived at the police station with Ashton Baran, one of the men who found the bullet. After the investigation was completed, R.F.P.D. contacted both Baran and Conrad Sewinski hoping to obtain additional information and the bullet itself. However, the information Dominican provided the officers was not the most direct. While driving to the police station, Baran's mother called him panicking about getting a phone call from the police. After calming his mother, Baran handed the bullet to police custody. Although Murillo would not speak on the record, I was able to meet with the deputy chief. He was not informed of the case but based on the facts I provided him, he told me the crime lab may or may not analyze the bullet to see when and where it was shot and from which type of gun.

While I was unable to get in touch with Dean Carlson early Friday afternoon, I was able to speak with him via telephone around 4:30 that evening. About an hour after we spoke, he posted another comment on the original posting.

Both Dean Carlson and campus safety asked me why I posted first rather than report directly to security. I don't really think journalism necessarily has to work that way. I understand why they would be upset and I'm sure I'd report before posting on a larger concern or public interest, but I do not regret handling the situation the way I did. I think that this blog is becoming bigger everyday and as more people leak tips to us, more news will break from DominiNET first. And because I was faced with a question of ethics before originally posting, I contacted two (DominiNET bloggers whom I believe are some of the strongest) journalists at DU about whether or not I should post before reporting. Both agreed with my idea to post and encouraged me to go forward. I did. And because of that, DominiNET is more fired up.

Be sure to pick up the next issue of the Dominican STAR to read more about the postings and investigation. The next issue is available on news stands Wednesday, Nov. 19.


  1. I wouldn't worry that you didn't report this to anyone before posting it. Eventually, the right people found out and you're still getting your story out there. Excellent reporting skills, Natalieee.

  2. I'm happy to see that a story broke first on Domininet, and that the powers-that-be are coming together to solve this case.

    Great reporting!

  3. Isn't this what the power of blogging is all about? It's good to have a place where students know that there could be breaking news before it is reported to security and processed through the usual channels. In this fast-paced, technological age; getting
    breaking news first is a must.

    Though I do think that before a journalist/blogger posts about something controversial, they should really consider the ethics of it as well as talk to fellow journalists. You did that - and it was great reporting overall.

  4. Good reporting Natalie! You are going to be a fabulous journalist!

  5. Reporting on other sorts of issues could cause serious ethical dilemmas. Let's say -- hypothetically -- that the two students found a gun or some drugs instead of one old bullet. Then there might be a stronger case for reporting it (to security)before posting; or at least posting and reporting (to security) simultaneously.

    Also, I think this is an opportunity to explore how much information authorities (in general) provide to media when they have the information first. I'm thinking, for example, of the "incident of hate" at Aquinas Hall last month. That sort of vague generality was obviously inadequate, and clearly made the case that journalists need to do their own investigations and get out front with the news.

  6. Looks like we have a LOT to discuss Wednesday.

  7. One of the downsides of the immediacy of blogs is that stories come out in pieces. It might have been good to have some comment from security with the first blog post. But as Tracy said, that's something to talk about on Wednesady.

  8. Hey Natalie: interesting story. What I always like about reading news stories as they happen is the way details seem to emerge and form a coherent narrative without the benefit of hindsight making it seem like the story is already completed (if that makes any sense). Anyhow, this is pretty cool.

    I'd like to follow this story to see how it all pans out.

  9. You don't have to worry about getting SHOT in River Forest; just watch your head for landing bullets from miles away!

    Everyone's just jealous that they didn't get to break the story first.

    Totally just kidding. Kinda.

    I think this matter was handled responsibly. Natalie did consult her fabulous colleagues for advice, and while it was posted first on DominiNET, it was also simultaneously reported to the proper authorities. Bam.

    On top of it, it's always interesting to pose a question or concern immediately; maybe see if anyone has any information on it. Isn't timeliness key? As the story unfolds and comes together, readers can check back for updates. Keep 'em coming back.

  10. ...and by "simultaneously," I mean within minutes. We're great bloggers, but haven't mastered being in two places at once quite yet. ;)

  11. Conducting an investigation regarding a fired bullet might help preempt those who are planning a major incident, like a fire, which would eventually lead to a fire investigation. Good thing that the campus had a headstart against this.