At least one person walked by the body of Demarius Reed after he was fatally shot, and as many as six people heard gunfire the night of the murder in his apartment complex, according to interim Ypsilanti Police Chief Tony DeGiusti.
No one called the police and the department lost the imperative initial hours to track down the killer. A forum at the Eastern Michigan University Student Center on Tuesday allowed DeGiusti to emphasize the need to alert officials if something feels amiss.
“Call the police,” he said repeatedly.
EMU President Susan Martin and EMU’s Chief of Police Robert Heighes spoke at the forum on Tuesday, and also held a question and answer in the Student Center on Wednesday.
Martin said the focus of EMU’s Department of Public Safety officers is to keep the campus safe but acknowledged that students throughout Ypsilanti need protection.
“Obviously that’s not in our jurisdiction, but we are working to improve safety for our students in the city and in the community,” she said.
Heighes also said more needs to be done around the city.
“To follow up on what President Martin said, our primary focus has been on campus.” Heighes said. But, he said there are plans to work in the community more to ensure students’ safety.
Heighes said the police will be conversing with the management of University Green, Huron View and Peninsular Place apartment complexes to discuss safety precautions. He also said other residential complexes may be added to the list after a student inquired if Riverrain was going to be included in the discussion.
Heighes said the two recent aggravated assaults on EMU students that took place around the city could be related.
“It’s a strong possibility the assault outside of Abe’s Coney Island and the one at the apartments were the same individuals,” he said.
Provost Kim Schatzel told students the university plans to expand orientation programs to educate students about alcohol awareness, sexual assault and personal safety.
Later, the speakers opened the floor up for students to ask questions.
One person asked why the EMU police does not do more patrolling in the areas surrounding
campus, which are highly populated with students. Martin and Heighes said while it is not their jurisdiction and they have put more emphasis on campus safety, campus police have worked with
Ypsilanti police in those areas and plan to expand that cooperation.
A graduate student at the event asked what the university has done and will do to reach out to the unique safety concerns of graduate students, such as having later classes. President Martin said that the university needed to do more to address the graduate students. She also said, in terms of evening parking, the free parking in the Rynearson Stadium parking lot was the safest as SEEUS watches the cars and a free shuttle transports students to and from campus.
A third student brought up that the timely warnings only cover cases where the suspect is at large and wondered if it hurt the campus in cases like the sexual assaults, where the students hear about the events through the media and relatives first. While Heighes said that the information is reported on the website for the Department of Public Safety, Martin said, “I think that is a very correct criticism.”
The interim Ypsilanti police chief, addressing the concerns of another student, said that their department will hire more officers.
“We do collaborate closely, and do a lot of work, in the areas around campus and with the city,” Martin said.