Memorial removal upsets community
Students and McMinnville community members are expressing outrage concerning the treatment of the suspected suicide case that occurred on campus April 10.
A McMinnville Police Department statement featured in a campus-wide email at 8:36 a.m. April 10 said: “McMinnville officers were dispatched to the area of Linfield College near Linfield Avenue and Pioneer Way to check on the welfare of a subject.”
The email said that when they arrived, officers found a deceased male who had suffered what was believed to be a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
However, the investigation is ongoing.
Friends and acquaintances of the victim, 2006 McMinnville High School graduate, Chad Alan Brown, 23, expressed anger about Linfield College Public Safety’s (CPS) removal of the memorial items that were left at the scene for Brown. They also voiced concern about a lack of sensitivity to the case through Facebook comments left on a picture of the first memorial, posted to a friend’s Facebook page.
Melissa Nalley, a 2007 McMinnville High School graduate, said in an email that she was at the site when CPS officers started bagging the items left on the bench where Brown was found, which included flowers she had bought and a poster that she created.
She said that she spoke with the officer who was bagging the items, and he told her it was for safekeeping and gave her the location of where they could be found. The items were given to Brown’s cousin Neil Young and his sister Lindsy Carmen Gjesvold, she said.
Nalley said that she has no idea what happened to the items that have been left since then.
“I feel his [Brown’s] friends and family were disrespected and most importantly, Chad [Brown] was disrespected,” Nalley said in an email. “This not only made campus security look bad, it made the entire student body look bad. Just because he wasn’t ‘affiliated with the school’ doesn’t mean that he means any less, he was a member of the community and there are a lot of people who love him.”
To address the memorial’s removal, several Facebook commenters expressed interest in taking the story to Fox News and to The News-Register in hopes that Linfield College will allow the memorials to take place on its property and to have the items remain intact for a longer period of time.
When asked about the case, Robert Cepeda, director and chief of College Public Safety, said in an email that the appropriate person to speak with is Director of Communications Mardi Mileham.
Cepeda commented on the situation later, making some clarifications regarding the removal of memorial items.
He said that there has been communication about the memorial items between the police department, Brown’s family and CPS and that the police department is the liaison between CPS and Brown’s family.
Cepeda said that the items were collected as a result of many factors regarding the case, one of them being the sensitivity and impact that it has had on Linfield and members of the McMinnville community.
He also said that it was explained to individuals at the site why the items were being collected and that they would be given to Brown’s family members.
“Memorials can trigger negative reactions from people who have gone through similar experiences, and our first concern is always our students’ and staffs’ emotional and mental safety,” Mileham said.
“It is a difficult situation all the way around and our hearts go out to the family.”
A sign explaining that any items left will be collected and stored at CPS for safekeeping was posted behind the bench on April 12, Cepeda said.
“A life is precious and it saddens me to hear when an individual feels that the only option they have is to take their life,” he said.
Apart from the removal of memorial items, students conveyed concern and disapproval of the communication efforts made by the school.
Senior Garrett Garceau said that the actions taken by the school were not up to par and that there was too long of a delay between the gunshot, the discovery of Brown’s body and the initial release of information.
“Students don’t enjoy being notified that something happened by noticing police everywhere,” Garceau said.
Cepeda addressed this issue saying that an individual, who found Brown, contacted the McMinnville Police Department and officers were dispatched and communicated with CPS officers. At the time of the discovery, the CPS officer on patrol was engaged in another incident involving bicycle thefts and that police department protocol had to be followed before information could be released.
Garceau also said that only saying that the victim suffered a gunshot wound was too vague and that for hours students did not know where the wound was sustained and whether the victim survived or not.
“Linfield still hasn’t sent anything else,” he said. “I had to go to The News-Register to find out more information.”
Mileham and Cepeda said that one thing people need to understand is that the school takes timely notifications seriously, but because it was a police investigation, it took time for the situation to be assessed and the information to be released to the school because there is a protocol that police officers must follow to ensure that the evidence is not destroyed or mishandled. This meant that the school received limited information, but that the most important point made was that there was not a threat to campus.
“When we have an outside entity coming to campus and taking over a part of it, there are delays while waiting for information,” Cepeda said. “Fortunately, the McMinnville Police Department has thorough understanding and a good working relationship with Linfield.”
Garceau said that he has heard too many rumors about the incident and that Linfield needs to step it up and make the necessary clarifications.
“Information is key to cutting shock,” he said.
Regarding sensitivity to the case, Linfield only said that it is offering counseling, Garceau said.
The lack of concealment of the body distressed many students who saw it while taking a stroll or walking to Dillin Hall for brunch April 10.
Garceau said he understood that there was an ongoing investigation and that there were attempts to conceal the body with an overhead tent and by police cars blocking the view from passers-by; but, officials at the crime scene should have taken more time to cover the body with curtains around the tent.
“Frankly, I’m not impressed at all,” Garceau said.
Cepeda and Mileham said that the police officers cannot immediately cover a body because doing so could compromise evidence and possibly hinder an investigation.
“We did have a discussion about other methodologies to employ in the future to contain an area,” Cepeda said.
Jessica Prokop/News editor
Jessica Prokop can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
*Updated on 4/15 from the original 4/13 posting*