Two students shot in south campus neighborhood this month highlight escalation of violence
Andrew Braud considers himself lucky to be alive.
And it’s easy to see why. On the night of Sept. 1, the Chico State student was beaten unconscious and shot in the leg during an altercation at Tau Gamma Theta fraternity, of which he’s a member.
“They went for the kill,” he said.
Braud, 22, spent a week in the hospital and now gets around with either a wheelchair or crutches, after a bullet from a handgun went straight through the bone in his left calf, nicking an artery and sending a spider web of hairline fractures through his tibia. The shooter, who was unknown to Braud and has yet to be caught by police, was with a group of men that was turned away from a party at the fraternity house that night.
That shooting was the first of two incidents of gun violence involving students since the start of the semester. Both shootings happened at house parties close to campus, and they have law enforcement raising safety concerns about Chico’s party culture.
On the night of Sept. 1, the beginning of a long Labor Day weekend, Tau Gamma Theta, which has been active since 1968 but is not officially affiliated with the school, threw a party. Fraternity President A.J. Windsor said the gathering was open only to Chico State students, and only those over 18 years of age. Fraternity brothers were stationed outside to check IDs and, after four to six young black men—as described by witnesses to police—were denied entrance for lack of student identification, they attempted to sneak in a side door. Fellow fraternity members confronted them and a fight broke out.
Braud said he heard the argument, ran outside to see what was happening and attempted to break it up. At that point, Braud recalled, he was punched in the face, which knocked him to the ground, and kicked in the head. “I had a print of a boot on my face,” he said. Then, as he struggled to regain consciousness, he was shot in the leg.
“I just couldn’t believe that someone would shoot someone because they couldn’t get into a party,” Braud said.
A few weeks later, at a party near Seventh and Hazel streets, just a couple of blocks from the Tau Gamma Theta house, another student was shot, this time in the arm. A campus-wide email described the incident as occurring at about 1 a.m. on Sept. 23. The suspect, who has not been identified, was described as a male wearing dark clothing who got into a dark SUV.
The victim, who has not been named, suffered a gunshot wound to the arm, was transported to Enloe Medical Center and the next morning was described as “visibly shaken but in good spirits overall” by Pedro Douglas, interim vice president for Student Affairs, who penned the campus email.
Police said in a press release they had not determined a motive for the shooting.
“It’s been far too many incidents,” Chico Police Chief Mike O’Brien said of the two shootings during a recent phone interview.
O’Brien, who graduated from Chico State and also served as the police force’s liaison to the university in the 1990s, pointed to Chico’s long history as a party town. While the university has tried to move on from the culture that ranked it the No. 1 party school in the country by Playboy magazine in 1986, plenty of open parties with alcohol still exist.
“It’s just a dynamic that’s not safe anymore,” O’Brien said. “Some of these parties elicit violence.”
O’Brien, although concerned, said the incidents haven’t changed how the police do business. The department already has a unit dedicated to patrolling areas in north and south campus. He said there’s a sergeant and six officers dedicated to patrolling those areas from Thursday evening until 4:30 a.m. on Sunday. In addition, the neighborhoods surrounding campus also are patrolled by University Police officers.
“We can’t prevent everything,” O’Brien said.
He also said his department has focused on educating students about being safe and the dangers of open parties and having strangers attend social gatherings.
But that doesn’t appear to have been the problem at Tau Gamma Theta. Windsor said his fraternity did everything it could to try to contain the party Sept. 1, including having members at the door checking IDs.
Windsor said the fraternity has taken additional safety precautions since the incident, including hiring private unarmed security guards for events and installing floodlights on the exterior of the building.
Chico State Interim Chief of Police John Reid said he will be meeting with O’Brien and other law enforcement personnel, along with city officials and community leaders, in the coming days to discuss strategies to curb the recent violence.
“It’s very concerning,” Reid said. “These are all areas our students live in.”
Despite Braud’s experience and the fact that his shooter has yet to be found, he’s convinced that Chico is not a dangerous place to live.
“I’ve always considered it to be safe,” he said. “I do feel that it was a freak incident that won’t happen as long as we stick to inviting people we know.”