So it was unsettling last month when an act of violence – armed assault with a deadly weapon – happened right under our noses.
A 19-year-old nonstudent was arrested Sept. 21 on charges of assaulting a female Queens student in North Hall, an off-campus residence hall, the previous week. The woman suffered minor injuries when a known suspect threatened to kill her and stopped her from leaving her room, according to a Sept. 23 Charlotte Observer story.
This rare act of violence at Queens raises several questions.
First, why was the suspect – identified as Montana Jack Nicolay – not in jail? He already was facing charges of felony death by vehicle, hit and run, and driving while impaired after a crash more than two months earlier which killed his 42-year-old passenger. And according to a review of Mecklenburg County arrest records by The Chronicle, Nicolay was also arrested Jan. 21, 2010 and charged with possession of marijuana, possession of drug paraphernalia, and for carrying a concealed gun. In May, he was arrested two consecutive days (May 2-3) for injury to personal property.
Why was he allowed to be bailed out of jail after charges involving guns, drunk driving and death by vehicle?
Secondly, why wasn’t this act of violence communicated to the Queens student body sooner?
It took two days after the arrest before Queens issued an “Important Safety and Security Alert” to students via RexText on Sept. 23. Granted, by that the time suspect had been arrested, so it wasn’t that he was on the loose and a potential danger to other students. “Safety is always our paramount concern at Queens. We want to reassure our community that this was not a random act of violence and we are cooperating with Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police,” the RexText said.
At the time, Queens spokesperson Vanessa Willis said safeguards were in place to ensure Nicolay wasn’t admitted to campus in the future and that security precautions, including Campus Police patrols, are in place at North even though it is off campus.
In an interview Oct. 11, Willis said the Queens community wasn’t aware of the incident sooner due to a lapse in usual protocol calling for Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police to inform Campus Police once a situation they are called on to campus to respond to is under control. She added that the lack of contact in this case was “very unusual.” (She also confirmed that Nicolay was still in jail as of Oct. 10.)
Still, we believe students should always be informed of any act of violence, immediately. By depending on Campus Police as a first line of defense, students deserve both a fast response and immediate information – rather than depending on outside parties to decide if we should be alarmed.
The biggest questions, though, are for ourselves. How can we prevent on campus violence in the future? It’s our campus – how can we keep it safe?