Memorial removal upsets community

Flowers and candles adorn the same bench where the body of a McMinnville resident was discovered in front of Walker Hall on April 10. Photo courtesy of Melissa Nalley

Police blocked off Walker Sesquicentennial Plaza on April 10 after discovering the body of Chad Alan Brown, 23, who died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

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.

Flowers and candles adorn the same bench where the body of a McMinnville resident was discovered in front of Walker Hall on April 10. Photo courtesy of Melissa Nalley

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.

A sign explains that College Public Safety will store any items left in memoriam. Braden Smith/Managing editor

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.

Police cruisers attempt to shield the area where the body of a deceased 23-year-old was discovered April 10. Braden Smith/Managing editor

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

*Updated on 4/15 from the original 4/13 posting*

20 Comments on Memorial removal upsets community

  1. I don’t know anything about the removal of memorial artifacts, but we all owe a big thanks to Tim Stewart, who took on the difficult task of cleaning up after the suicide as soon as the police allowed. He chose to do the work alone in order to avoid exposing others to any trauma. Tim is one of Linfield’s dedicated administrative staff members.

  2. Mark Johnson // April 13, 2011 at 3:03 pm //

    Amen..I feel so bad for people who had to walk by and see that. I didn’t realize the police didn’t clean up this. Big kudos to Tim (whom I do not know whatsoever). That had to be one of the toughest moments in his life, all for us students. Big thanks mate!

  3. Who decided people can’t leave anything to remember and celebrate chads life? Wow. That’s like an insult to his friends and family. I cared about Chad deeply, if I lived closer I would leave roses where he died, if they were removed THEIR WOULD BE PROBLEMS. I’m disgusted by the lack of sensitivity shown

  4. steve markley // April 14, 2011 at 10:08 am //

    That’s just vile. Those people obviously have never felt that kinda pain. Would you remove a cross marking a drunk driving accident? Something tells me these people wouldn’t even drive an extra 20 ft. to avoid peeing on it. Completely heartless.

  5. I think the difference between the side of a road and the Linfield Campus is private property vs public. There were rules about what was done, blind to the circumstance. I know with art projects around campus, it is only a matter of time before they are removed…however, I do feel that this situation should have had a little more lax and sensitivity. =(

  6. Mark Johnson // April 14, 2011 at 11:09 am //

    I agree with Megan. Although Linfield IS private and a lot of people don’t get that that designation means they can essentially do anything they choose. There were a lot of prospective students on campus this last weekend and Monday visiting Linfield. Essentially advertising that this happened at Linfield is something that could have had a negative impact on visiting high schoolers. But from an emotional standpoint, this could and should have been handled a lot better. I’m interested why Cepeda decided he will not accountable for his own group and lobbed this off on the college public information office.

  7. I’m sure Linfield has policies regarding employees communicating with the media about scandals such as this. I’m sure that Cepeda was just following protocol when he referred the the Review reporter to the director of communications. What happened to Brown is a tragedy. I can understand the need to remove the memorial items from the bench after a certain period of time. It’s a bench in a high foot traffic area that is central to the college. If the items weren’t removed at some point I would imagine that the traffic through the area would have seriously damaged them anyway. However, that doesn’t excuse the way the item removal was handled or the facebook comments. I’m guessing Cepeda and the college will probably issue a formal apology sometime very soon… or at least a personal apology to Brown’s family.

  8. Jessica Prokop // April 14, 2011 at 5:12 pm //

    An updated story will be posted tomorrow morning addressing most if not all of these questions and concerns. In regard as to why Cepeda referred me to Mileham, it is college policy to have matters such as this one handled by her.

  9. I am a student at Linfield and I dont want to be rude but most of us didnt know Chad and some of us have lost friends and family too and to see the flowers and the signs brought a lot of emotions back and made us feel uncomfortable. They removed the items out of respect for the students that still had to go to school. I do think that a memorial could have been made just not in the center of campus where we had to see it everyday. If someone died in your front yard that you didnt know would you want people to put flowers and signs in your front yard?? Think about it because I doubt you would let them stay there very long.

  10. Linfield Student // April 15, 2011 at 9:39 pm //

    As a Linfield student, I am completely embarrassed to be associated with this school after hearing about the removal of Chad’s memorial. After reading the article, a part of me wanted to rush over to the bench and leave a note saying how appalled and embarrassed I am, just so that the community would know that we are not all so heartless and insensitive. But I didn’t, because that would distract us from what really deserves our attention: Chad’s life and the loss his friends and family are going through. Walking by that bench, I assumed the sign on the post was some kind of memorial with his name and life span on it. Upon seeing the picture in the Review, I am appalled to find out it is just some rude sign. It really shouldn’t matter if he was a Linfield student or not or that Linfield is private property. The school administrators should have some heart. It is selfish to remove the memorial and I am so embarrassed to be a part of this school right now. In the article they said that the memorial could disturb students who have been affected by similar circumstances, and perhaps that is true for some. But I was once suicidal, and I think by allowing the memorial to be there, it would show those affected by such feelings that they are not alone. And, the memorial could show that we are compassionate and care. Prospective student could’ve seen an act of compassion, and sensitivity, had the flowers and such been left there. But instead, Linfield is saying to the world that being real is not good. It is saying that instead we should put on a smile to cover up our real feelings, and be fake. I am honestly just disgusted, appalled, and embarrassed.

  11. Anonymous // April 15, 2011 at 9:42 pm //

    I find it odd that Linfield feels the need to remove the memorial so as not to make students feel uncomfortable, yet they don’t mind disturbing students with the sight of the dead body on the way to brunch. They should’ve left the memorial there.

  12. Let's not forget . . . // April 16, 2011 at 2:54 pm //

    I personally think the school is doing the right thing by not allowing a memorial to be there. The vast majority of the students’ sensitivities are most important, and while the body was there for a considerable time that day due to protocol and such, and it was sad that waaay toooo many happened to see it, the fact remains it’s not incumbant of the college to protect the sensitivities of the grieving friends but its students. Let’s not forget this troubled young man chose to end his life. If indeed a memorial needs to be in place, it could be done where he lived. Celebrate and remember when and where he was alive, not when and where he chose to die. His friends should spend money not on flowers and such, but give it to Mental Health agencies to help those who are troubled so they do not choose to go the route this young, troubled individual did. Leaving items in a spot to signify some kind of gesture of love and support where he chose to die is, in my opinion, tooo little, toooo late. May he rest in peace. May those who recall him do so with dignity of donating money to help others so they won’t commit the desperate action he did. Stop it already with going after the school in its protecting its students.

  13. Let's not forget . . . // April 16, 2011 at 3:12 pm //

    In re-reading the article, I know I’m going to sound harsh but it truly irritates me that many of us devoted to Linfield have to feel guilty about this. Sincere condolences to Ms. Nalley who is quoted with: “I feel his [Brown’s] friends and family were disrespected and most importantly, Chad [Brown] was disrespected,” Nalley said in an email” as I can well imagine her grief is quite painful right now.

    Yet, let’s not forget . . . who ultimately was disrespectful? Sadly, he was troubled to the point that he disrespected his family, friends, and more important himself in choosing to take his life. My heart does go out to those who loved and cared about him. I’m unsure if he left any notes or messages explaining why he would do this to himself (and those who survive him) but the point is, he chose to do it.

    Now for his friends to have this outcry of the college being disrespectful is not fair at all. The school did not do this killing, he did. The school has a responsibility to its students and faculty. Certainly, everyone at the school feels sadness about this incident but they should not have to live with blatant reminders of it. Just walking past the site will conjure up feelings of sadness and questions as to why an individual in the beginning stages of adulthood with what could have been a full life ahead of him instead chose to end his life.

    As I pointed out in my other post . . . memorials serve a better purpose when they can more impactfully and effectively do something to curb something like this from happening again.

    Flowers, notes, balloons (if that makes a grieving person feel better) should be given to his surviving family, or to children sick in hospitals in telling them this is for them in remembrance of a loved friend (without going into details about his choosing to die) NOT A BENCH where he chose to die.

    Try to understand why he was so desperate and do what you can for others so they won’t get to that point.

  14. Sparkles // April 17, 2011 at 9:48 am //

    The biggest mistake I see taking place here is the disconnect between the college community and the rest of the community at large. As much as Linfield has the right to protect their students, they also have a responsibility to care for their wounded community. Removing the articles from the memorial is to tell the entire community that this is not a public issue. The fact of the matter is that it is a completely unifying human tragedy. Instead of trying to minimize the impact of this scene on the campus, the college and town officials should treat it as an opportunity to unify the students and the community. Remove the bench and erect a memorial site somewhere more significant to Chad’s spirit. Plant a garden and get the community involved. Grow food! The most important resource is life, and everything we can do to give people significance in this world is making an effort to preserve it.

    It saddens me that people want to dispute formalities and create controversy over this. Your community is wounded, so heal it instead of ignoring it.

  15. Concerned Student // April 17, 2011 at 10:12 pm //

    “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.”

    1) Not positive, but I think that there may have been another officer on duty at the initial time the event occurred, (maybe not when the body was discovered, but when it occurred.)
    2) Between the time it initially occurred, and the time that the body was found (2-3 hours if I am correct?) where were these officers? Isn’t it their duty to patrol campus? Perhaps, they did not see it if they were in their patrol car, but I have also heard that they are supposed to patrol campus on foot. Were these officers not doing that in the 2-3 hours? If they WERE patrolling on foot, would they not have discovered the bodies themselves?

    3) Is the incident involving bike theft logged? Are we able to see these records? And if this was the case, and the bike theft incident is not logged, then this is not following protocol….hmmm…I suggest that the Linfield Review look into this.
    and Even if it is logged, you’d think a shooting on campus would have higher priority than bike theft, if after all, their main concern, (and mind you, reason for taking down the memorial), is for the students.

  16. Jessica Prokop // April 18, 2011 at 1:04 am //

    According to Cepeda, one officer was on duty that morning patrolling when they became engaged in a bicycle theft incident. This is why the patrolling stopped and attention was focused on this incident.

    However, also during this time, a passer-by found the body and called it in to the McMinnville Police Department. Police were then dispatched to the school and informed CPS of the situation. I am assuming that CPS then sent multiple officers to the scene because I personally saw at least two there, along with police officers, on my way to brunch.

    The protocol discussed in the story is referring to the McMinnville Police Department. It has protocol to follow before releasing information to CPS or anyone else for that matter.

    Hope this helped to clarify.

  17. Kimberly // April 19, 2011 at 8:46 am //

    Although I understand the feelings of some of the students of the school, they all really need to grow up and re-read what they posted. Some of you are very selfish, self centered and very rude and in reading what you wrote, some of you are very immature. Show some respect and step outside of your own shallow lifes and see the big picture. Maybe this person took his life at the College because the College would not accept him as a student or perhaps he was “just walking by on his way to Brunch” and saw the bench and stopped to rest and think about things. Either way, you selfish immature self centered students are going to have to face other inconviences in your life such as this. Hope none of you choked on your Sunday morning Brunch!

  18. Leaving the memorial there in order to respect the wishes of community members could have been very harmful to well-being of residents of the college who might otherwise have been unaffected is selfish in it’s own right. Don’t let your anger cloud your perspective.

    A group was going to get hurt either way.

    And Linfield, which for all intents and purposes is a business, will always take action that protects it’s own interests, including students and faculty.

    I’m not sure how I would respond if an individual I did not know took his or her own life in my backyard, but I’m positive I would try to consider everyone who could be affected by my actions before I responded.

    There’s no right answer. Someone was going to get hurt either way.

  19. Mark Johnson // April 19, 2011 at 9:29 pm //

    I agree with Matt. There is no right answer. With prospective students on campus last Monday, it makes it even harder to leave the memorial up. I think we all agree people were going to be sensitives ruffled with this situation, it just so happened that the school chose their own interests. Again, Linfield is a private campus, meaning they can choose what to do with anything.

  20. As a FRIEND of Chad, I’m truly disgusted and I cannot believe what half of you are saying. If seeing a memorial is going to make you uncomfortable, then you need to grow up and maybe also grow a heart. What if your friend killed themselves, one of your very best friends, and you wanted to leave something in the place of his/her passing and someone just ripped it away as if it were nothing? Would you be happy with that? And to those saying he CHOSE to do so. Yes, he chose. But just think about this… how hurt, how alone, how DESPERATE do you think he was to be able to do it? Knowing Chad, he was one of the funniest, happiest people. So for you all saying so easily that he CHOSE to take his own life, you are truly heartless and I cannot believe you could even type those words. Have some compassion… not only for him or his friends and family, but for everyone around you. I can assure you that you will live a very unhappy and lonely life if you don’t.

    RIP Chad… you’ll be missed always.

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