UCCS’ administration provides explanations on events related to Feb. 16 dorm homicides

On Feb. 20, UCCS’ administration hosted a virtual forum explaining events related to the dorm homicides.

A call for shots fired was reported early in the morning on Feb. 16. The bodies of 24-year-old UCCS student Samuel Knopp and 26-year-old Celie Rain Montgomery were found in a dorm room at the Crestone apartment building located in Alpine Village.

The suspect believed to be responsible for the murders, Nicholas Jordan, a 26-year-old man from Detroit, was put in custody on Feb. 19 and charged with two counts of first-degree murder.

Administrators from various departments discussed topics ranging from why UCCS is limiting the amount of information on Jordan and the shooting coming out, the available mental health services on campus and what the community can do to move forward.

Chief of Police Dewayne McCarver

During the lockdown on Feb. 16, McCarver noted the incoming evidence made it apparent that Jordan knew the victims and that it was a targeted act of violence. This made them confident in releasing the lockdown, but they still called for a shelter in place in Alpine Village for a couple more hours to ensure the evidence the CSPD was gathering would not be compromised from a large volume of people trying to leave the dorms.

“This was gut-wrenching for us because we knew that our community was scared and we were not able to give you the information that we wanted to give you,” McCarver said.

McCarver explained that details relating to the investigation that are put out publicly could make it harder to find the suspect and prosecute, which is why UCCS and the CSPD were very selective on the information they announced.

When asked how they decided the campus was safe despite Jordan still being on the loose at the time, McCarver responded by noting there is a lot of information CSPD and UCCS know that they still can’t disclose. That information led them to the conclusion that there was no threat to the campus.

“There was a lot of information that we used to make that decision, and all of that information is still not even out. But we did know that it was a targeted, directed act of violence between specific people, and that’s the reason we made the decision,” McCarver said.

Despite Jordan now being in custody, details are still being withheld to assist in the ongoing investigation. “When you start to disclose information that you know, it allows others out there who may be additional suspects to realize that maybe the investigation may be moving in their direction and evidence can be destroyed or moved — people hide, and that makes it very difficult,” McCarver said.

McCarver also spoke about ways the community can be safe. He noted there will be more cameras being installed around campus — especially in the dorm area and during the summer — and he urged students to download the UCCS Safe App and make sure they have not been opted out of the UCCS Alert texts.

When asked why guns are permitted in the dorms, McCarver stated that Colorado law does not prohibit concealed carry if the individual has a permit, meaning the campus allows for it. Open carry is not prohibited at UCCS.

According to McCarver, students with legal permits can conceal carry in the dorms, but they must disclose they have the permit, and housing management will provide them with a locker to keep the gun locked up in the dorm room.

“Something I think is very important to note in this case is that they [Jordan] actually broke the rules in the case, regardless. No weapon was allowed in the dorm under these circumstances anyway,” McCarver said.

Provost Nancy Marchand-Martella and Executive Director of the Lyda Hill Institute of Human Resilience Charles Benight

Benight encouraged students to go back to their normal routines to get back to a sense of normalcy.

Both Benight and Marchand-Martella acknowledged that things will never be what they used to be, but the campus can find a new normal by getting back into their routines.

“One might think during times like this that we want students to stay away from campus, but the research is very clear that we want students to return to campus. To return to their routines, the stability, their peers [and] the faculty who love them in the classroom. It really does make a tremendous difference in reducing stress and reducing traumatic stress to actually have the students back on campus and the avenues that they know so well,” Marchand-Martella said.

Benight explained that research on traumatic events such as these shows that interacting with the community and being in an environment you are used to being in can help with the healing process. He did not mention the specific research he was talking about.

Going back to normal means dealing with assignments, which Marchand-Martella and Benight both acknowledged.

“One of the things that I have asked faculty to do is to have grace during this time. We’re all going through a very difficult situation right now, and so having grace related to how the course offers assignments and so forth. But ultimately, that is up to the faculty member,” Marchand-Martella said.

Benight said there needs to be a balance between getting reconnected back into the community and doing academic work.

“Isolation following a trauma is very difficult for people, and it compounds the problem,” Benight said. “The idea of being back in and having the academic work to do can be very difficult for some but also very helpful to others. So, I think it’s a balancing act, and if you’re struggling, you definitely want to reach out for resources.”

Services available to students:

  • Walk-in crisis counseling will be available at the Wellness Center for the rest of the week. They are open from 8 a.m. – 5 p.m.
  • 24/7 mental health support is available through TELUS Health.
  • The 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline also offers 24/7 access to trained crisis counselors. You can call or text 988 or chat at 988lifeline.org.
  • Stephanie Hanenberg, assistant vice chancellor for health and wellness, said the Wellness Center will be offering continuous ongoing services for students impacted by the event. They are also providing counselors for impacted spaces and students.
  • Campus police are available at 719-255-3111 and can also be contacted through the UCCS SAFE app in any emergencies.

Photo via The Scribe Archives.