Campus administration speaks with students about Feb. 16 homicides at SGA meeting 

On March 7, SGA invited campus administration to the senate meeting, where they heard frustrations from students and explained their decisions behind campus communication following the Feb. 16 double homicides. 

Chancellor Jennifer Sobanet and Chief of Police Dewayne McCarver both gave statements and answered questions from SGA and students in attendance. The meeting in UC 303 was almost full of students and administration, a sight that is uncommon for most SGA meetings. 

During public discussion, multiple students gave statements about their experience to Sobanet, McCarver and other administrators present.  

Chancellor Jennifer Sobanet 

Sobanet opened the meeting by commemorating the lives of Mia Brown, who died on Feb. 12 from a medical emergency, and Sam Knopp and Celie Rain Montgomery, the homicide victims. 

“All that we make of ourselves and of this beautiful university coming from this tragic time will be in honor of them,” Sobanet said. 

Sobanet believes that moving forward and continuing to learn and grow will create hope.  

She urges UCCS to band together as a community to respond to this tragedy with integrity and resilience.  

For future communication, University Communications will create an email update to share milestones in the criminal case with the campus. This will warn students when the investigation or heightened media attention will impact the community.  

Sobanet stated that the administration has a serious obligation to uphold confidentiality in order to ensure justice is served. They have been ordered to keep the case confidential by the District Attorney’s Office. 

“It’s important to remember that our university has been thrust into the middle of an ongoing criminal justice process. This is not a choice of our making, but this process includes serious obligations that we must and will uphold,” she said. 

She stated that no one has the full facts of the situation that happened before Knopp’s death. The details we do have so far were provided by the arrest affidavit signed on Feb. 23. 

Chancellor Sobanet addresses recent campus tragedies at Feb. 16 SGA meeting. Photo taken by Josiah Dolan. 

Chief of Police Dewayne McCarver 

McCarver wants to give the campus more facts about the case but also believes it is important to keep the case confidential. He asked for the campus to be patient and wait as details from this case will most likely come out.  

“It would be much easier if we could just talk about all the facts because I can guarantee you that, while it wouldn’t bring anyone back, it wouldn’t change any of the events, but it would make you feel better,” McCarver said.  

“I’m not allowed to talk to you about the details, and I have to sit and be crushed that everybody thinks we’re covering up or lying,” he said. 

He claimed that everything that was done before, during and after the time was done right and in full compliance with UCCS’ policies, but he encouraged students to come forward with suggestions on how to improve or change the policies. 

McCarver emphasized that UCCS is an incredibly safe campus and that violence and tragedy can happen anywhere. 

Cameras have been going up on campus since September and more are being installed every day to ensure safety on campus. 

McCarver stated that there have been no changes or updates to the security in the dorms since Feb. 16 other than continuing to add more cameras.  

He also shared that if the CU Regents pass a policy banning concealed carry, the campus would not be able to enforce it as it is a policy and not a law; the police can only enforce the laws, not campus policies.  

Chief of UCCS Police Dewayne McCarver, addresses recent campus tragedies at SGA meeting. Photo taken by Josiah Dolan 

Senator of the Arts Micah Vacco 

Vacco is a VAPA student, and they have worked closely with the music department since Knopp was killed to try to meet their needs. 

They made a statement at the meeting before reading a couple of the many anonymous student letters submitted to them about the events following the double homicides. 

Students have been extremely frustrated with the university’s response to the crisis, including their communication during the crisis and as information was revealed after. 

“If these rules and policies state that this is how we should have responded, then on behalf of the many students who are impacted by these policies, the rules and policies are wrong, and we must do everything in our power to change them,” Vacco said. 

There is also a lot of student frustration with how the media acted after the crisis, with many students feeling harassed for comments.  

“Students felt scared leaving their rooms not just for the fear of a shooter, but because of the fear of the media,” Vacco said. 

Vacco personally experienced photos being taken of them during a vulnerable time without consent. “Photos of me crying made national headlines as I grieved for the loss of a classmate and a friend. I had to threaten a lawsuit to get them to remove the photos,” they said. 

Vacco voiced the widespread criticism of the Day of Healing not being enough, and students needing more than one day off to process everything that happened. 

Students did not feel safe returning to campus but felt like they had to when classes resumed. 

“You were constantly reminding us we were safe, but you failed to keep Sam safe. So how can I trust you with my safety?” Vacco said. 

There was also criticism for the university not canceling tours during this time, with these groups walking directly through the University Center, which was supposed to be a safe space. 

In other news: 

  • Student Life has secured additional funding that will allow them to host spaces of comfort and support twice a week through April. These events will provide food, coloring, games and opportunities to connect with one another. 
  • In light of recent events, the provost’s office pushed back the withdrawal date for the semester to May 5. 
  • Mental health appointments with the Wellness Center can be scheduled by calling 719-255-4444.  
  • Free and confidential mental health and wellbeing support is available 24/7 through TELUS Health and SilverCloud.  

Members of UCCS gather at SGA meeting. Photo taken by Josiah Dolan.