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COLUMBIA, MO (KTVI) from a student who required facial reconstruction to another who says she has trouble breathing after someone punched her in the nose, we tracked reports that people aren’t used to hearing about college life.
In Columbia, MO the University of Missouri campus and downtown are almost merged into one. Restaurants, bars and coffee shops sit across the street from classrooms. It’s downtown where we’ve uncovered dozens of assaults.
Last may Thomas Riddick was walking alone from a Broadway bar, heading down Hitt Street.
He said, “I was tapped on the shoulder by someone I assumed came out of this garage. I turned around straight to a punch to my face.” He added, “One of my friends was walking back from a bar about ten minutes later. She recognized me knocked out on the ground bleeding everywhere.”
Riddick said he woke up in the arms of an EMT. He said, “I had no idea what just happened.” His wallet was gone.
Riddick was not the only one violently attacked last May. The Phi Delta Theta fraternity reported an armed invasion.
Dee Baebler said, “It`s not hype if the small group of people that I know in Columbia have a personal connection to at least one person that`s been violently attacked.”
Baebler is a St. Louis mom of a Mizzou student, who’s talked to several families she says are too afraid to speak out about their child’s attacks. She said, “Guys that are walking home get beaten up, get jumped and kicked beaten within an inch of their life.”
In December, former MO State Representative Jeff Grisamore tweeted, “requesting prayers for my son, Joel. He just went into facial reconstruction surgery in Columbia after attack by 2 unknown assailants.” Grisamore declined to talk on camera because the assault remains unsolved.
Two men attacked his son at a bar on the edge of campus, at the corner of 9th and Elm. Columbia police report three dispatch calls for assaults in a 12 month period.
We mapped assault dispatch calls in the downtown area near campus over the past year. We found several hotspots. One stands out at 4th and Cherry – 11 reported assaults. It`s the address for Flatbranch park, which is the entrance to the MKT. A half mile down the road begins a series of assault reports.
Beginning at the intersection of 10th street and Broadway, police data shows four assaults in the last year. A couple doors down, two more. Then four more next door. It jumps to 13 near the light at Broadway and Hitt. That`s 23 assault reports on one block alone.
Baebler commented, “I can`t imagine living in this culture now. That shouldn`t be a part of the equation when you go to college.”
Baebler started a Change.org petition called “Improve Safety and Security of Mizzou Students Immediately!” She recently met with University and City leaders along with both police departments.
University Police Major Brian Weimer spoke on their behalf. He said, “I can tell you on campus we have not seen a large increase of violent crime by any means.”
MUPD numbers show aggravated assault numbers on campus are not increasing despite a growing student population. Off campus, Columbia police report a drop in assaults every year since 2010. Major Weimer says some people may perceive increased violence because of social media. He says students are getting smarter about how they party. Weimer explained, “There`s always strength in numbers and also making sure that one person is going to be the sober person at the end of the night to make sure everybody gets home safe.” He added, “…not blaming the victim in any way shape or form, but the predator out there is trying to find the weakest link.”
Student Riddick hopes his story helps someone else. He said, “I still to this day have no idea how I didn`’t even hear footsteps coming.”
His attack fit the scenario of two other victims we talked to, both who were too afraid to talk on camera. They were attacked at night and they were alone.
Columbia Police point out the numbers drop considerably when you compare the reported assaults that come through dispatch to the number of police reports officers end up writing.
A bar owner on Broadway also told us that the section of Broadway we featured between 10th street and Hitt, is a convergence of five bars, all with very different clientele.
The Columbia Police Department does have cameras around the downtown area, but officers say the City does not allow police to monitor them. Police can only request video when investigating a specific report. One of the cameras is pointing at the area we featured on Broadway.
- Change.org petition to improve safety for Mizzou students
- Mizzou – Violence and Safety Meeting
- Mizzou Alum Suggestions
Follow Chris Hayes on Twitter @ChrisHayesTV