Neighbor of Peninsular Place shooting victim recalls incident

Destinee Leapheart awoke to a loud noise and a sharp pain in her shoulder. Initially brushing it off as just her shoulder popping, she felt fluid on her hand. Using her phone as a light source, she realized that what covered her hand was blood. She had been shot.

The Eastern Michigan University student was struck by a stray bullet on the morning of Dec. 4 while sleeping in her bed in her second-floor apartment at the Peninsular Place complex, on the corner of Huron River Drive and LeForge Road and across the street from campus. The shot came from outside of the complex, and officials suspect that it originated from the other side of the Huron River.

Ypsilanti Police Lt. Deric Gress said that the incident appears to be a random act of violence. The shot may have come from Peninsular Park or the apartment complex across the street.

“It doesn’t appear [Leapheart] was the target,” Gress said.

EMU senior public law and government major Bobby Curry is a resident of Peninsular Place and neighbor of Leapheart. He said that he had heard five or six gunshots around the time of the incident and immediately called the police at 1:38 a.m.

“I didn’t know exactly what happened but I knew that it was bad,” Curry said.

According to Curry, who reached out to Leapheart after the incident, her first reaction was to call her mom and tell her what had happened. She then proceeded to frantically press the panic button, a feature installed in every Peninsular Place apartment. Her roommate eventually called 911, and Leapheart stayed on the kitchen floor trying to stop the bleeding with a towel until help arrived.

According to Curry, the walls of the building seem thin enough to let a bullet through.

“When it storms, the actual apartment starts shaking,” he said, adding that one night, he slept on the floor because his bed was against the wall, which shook during the strong winds.

Curry said that security guards were unhelpful when speaking to them about the incident, telling him to “rest easy” and stating that the police had reason to believe Leapheart was involved in the shooting. He added that Leaphart said that the police were aggressive with her upon responding and didn’t believe she was shot until she lifted her arm, revealing the wound.

According to The Ann Arbor News, Leapheart, who was hospitalized for the injury, is expected to make a full recovery and she plans to move out of the apartment.

Safety remains a pressing concern for Peninsular Place, as it has had a number of incidents in the past year. Last December, EMU student Julia Niswender was murdered in her apartment, and John Lawrence, the father of another EMU student, died following a dispute with his daughter’s roommates in late March. In October, several men assaulted a male student in the parking lot of the building.

American Campus Communities, the Texas-based company that owns Peninsular Place, has released a statement to The Ann Arbor News on the safety measures being taken at the complex.

“The wellbeing of our residents is important to us,” Gina Cowart, American Campus Communities’ vice president of investor relations and corporate marketing, said in the statement. “We are focused on collaborating with our community partners to address crime in the area.”

“We are working with property managers to create as much of a presence as possible in the area,” Gress said, mentioning that the LeForge area, which also saw the murder of EMU football player Demarius Reed in October, is only home to 8 percent of Ypsilanti’s violent crimes. “Every year there is a new hotspot. Particular areas get heated, and right now it’s that area.”

In addition to an increased police presence, Cowart said that adding additional outdoor lighting, new electronic locks and a safety program led by EMU Police Officer Candace Dorsey are among the steps the company has taken to protect the apartment complex.

One of Curry’s concerns about the safety of the complex is the effectiveness of the panic buttons. He said that there had been no record of panic button activation when Leapheart had pressed it after the incident. He recalled a conversation he had a while ago with one of the complex’s security guards, who was pacing in the courtyard. Curry said that according to the guard, “Those are full of shit. The panic buttons do not work.”

On the other hand, Gress claims that “we respond to panic buttons all the time.” He added that when people hit the panic button, Peninsular Place’s security responds first, then lets the police know when they are needed.

Curry was active during the Demarius Reed case, speaking to several Ypsilanti officials on the topic of safety on behalf of his fellow students. He ultimately wants to see the campus community living under safer conditions.

“We are TruEMU and we are family,” Curry said.

Assistant News Editor Nora Naughton contributed to this story

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