UCCS students reflect on the past week

UCCS was left asking a lot of questions following the double homicide that took place in a dorm room.

The bodies of 24-year-old UCCS student Samuel Knopp and 26-year-old Celie Rain Montgomery were found in the Crestone building located in Alpine Village on Feb. 16 after shots fired were reported around 6 a.m. The homicide left students, faculty and staff alike wondering if the campus was safe and asking questions about what happened.

The shooting made some students realize that campus-wide safety is never certain.

Marcus Footman — junior in Visual and Performing Arts

“Jaded with a sense of dread” was how Marcus Footman described his feelings about the shooting.

“Despite these incredible people now dying so senselessly, I don’t feel like much is going to change from this … There’s going to be debates, and proposals, and filibusters and arguments and bickering, but nothing’s going to end up changing with that. What happened on Friday might go down in history as just another school shooting in America, and Sam and Celie will just be remembered as a number. And I don’t accept that,” he said.

Footman is a resident of the La Plata dorm, right across from the Crestone apartments. He woke up to notifications on his phone and squad cars outside. At first, he thought it was a surprise drill, so he was hoping for the best but preparing for the worst.

After the lockdown was over, Footman asked police officers on the scene what was going on to try and cut through rumors he had heard about the situation, but no one could give him any solid evidence.

He was frustrated from the lack of information flow that morning but realized initial information may have been withheld to prevent misinformation later.

Footman described campus as passively hostile on Friday. “If you knew what you were looking for … you would be able to see it under everyone’s faces,” he said.

Despite feeling like the community has shown solidarity and supported each other through this time, Footman believes UCCS will never be the same, even if the community at large forgets. To Footman, the shooting will be a constant reminder that UCCS isn’t shielded from violence.

“It is possible to die here, and that’s not a great feeling. You always want that sense of safety. Like putting a blanket over your head when you’re afraid of the boogie man. You feel like ‘if the blanket’s over my head, then it can’t get me,’” he said.

Tiarra Downing — junior in physics

Tiarra Downing described her feelings as “anxious” last week.

“It’s like I’m in a Yellow Room. It’s hard to continue forward, like I know I’m trying, and I keep saying ‘Let’s keep going, let’s just keep going’ but like, it’s difficult … it’s so real all of a sudden,” she said.

After leaving the safety of her dorm in Cucharas House that Friday evening, Downing walked to the dining hall feeling jumpy and cautious. The Roaring Fork was tense to her; the upstairs section, where she usually sat, was closed off. She felt like the whole dining hall was scared.

Downing thinks that the road back to where UCCS was before the shooting is a long one. After the Colorado Spring Police Department took someone into custody for the double homicide, she said that she and others felt more secure.

But she still had concerns about policies and restrictions about guns on campus moving forward. Weapons are allowed on UCCS campus with a concealed carry permit.

“That should not be allowed… at all. It’s a school. And in public schools and on public school campuses, even if you have a concealed carry permit — not allowed,” Downing said.

As far as accommodations, Downing has felt supported, noting multiple professors have waived work for the week and offered support.

Downing said security around campus was increased following the event. There were increased patrols over the weekend in Alpine Village, with police officers parked outside the buildings while investigations were being conducted. Despite this, she’s concerned that this layer of safety will get stripped back with time.

The idea acts as a grim reminder that something like this was possible in the place where she eats, sleeps and goes to school. “It happened, and it could happen again,” she said.

Jamie Villarreal — senior in English

“Confused” was how Jamie Villarreal, a resident at Crestone, described feeling following the shooting.

She said the entire experience was a rollercoaster of emotions, which she attributed to the lack of access to information. Returning back to something that resembles normal is confusing to Villarreal, who is trying to find a balance of getting back to a sense of normalcy while still properly grieving.

Villarreal shares the relief of knowing that someone was taken into custody for the crime, noting that while police said it was an isolated incident, no one can be sure until someone is arrested.

The shooting has shifted her focus to student advocacy and policy-making at UCCS. “People need to be upset in order for change to happen … some feel like they are safe and heard, and some don’t,” she said.

She feels there is a sense of urgency on the part of students to act and express how they feel about the incident to authority because the school can’t make a change if they don’t know how students feel about it.

Even with policy changes, Villarreal knows something like the shooting can happen again. “You can take all the precautions that you want, but safety is never a guarantee,” she said.

Alpine Village. Photo by Lillian Davis.