Sophomore Ben Rutter did not notice the car pull up outside Sigma Chi until someone leaned out the passenger door and yelled a greeting up to the students on the porch. Then he heard the paintball shots.
“All things considered it probably didn’t phase me as much as it should’ve, considering the fact that it continued happening. I thought it was a one-off thing,” he said.
Rutter was hit Oct. 18 in the hand by an orange paintball, which left a bruise that was still present two weeks later. Since he thought it was just a random occurrence, he did not report it to Campus Safety.
The shootings have received a serious response from Campus Safety, as well as the Galesburg Police Department.
“We take all of our calls quite seriously but whenever we’re made aware of people being shot at by any kind of projectile, that makes it all the more serious, whether it’s a paintball gun or anything else for that matter. We’re going to make that the highest priority possible,” Director of Campus Safety Mark Welker said.
The events reported to Campus Safety occurred on Oct. 26, Oct. 30 and Oct. 31. All of them occurred between 4 p.m. and 9 p.m.
According to an email from Campus Safety, a student also witnessed an incident near 191 W. Tompkins around 7 p.m. on Nov. 1. GPD was contacted and an arrest was made.
When a shooting occurred, Welker said that Campus Safety and GPD would check the area but that each time they could not find the shooters. Multiple cars are suspected of being involved, including what have been identified as a blue Impala, a silver Camry and a black BMW.
The incident on Oct. 31 took place on the soccer field. According to junior Gavin Douglas, the car drove along W. Knox Street and rolled down its window as the men’s soccer team had a team meeting near the center of Prats Field.
Douglas then saw what looked like a gun come out of the window.
“Then we just hear air, kinda like an airsoft gun or like a paintball gun. We figured out it was a paintball gun from earlier attacks,” he said.
Some of the team covered their heads but none of them were hit. The team then called Campus Safety. About an hour or ninety minutes later the car came back, shooting at houses along S. West Street.
“We all remained pretty calm about it. In the end, it’s no harm done but it’s still a scary thing to go through. If we were any closer we could’ve gotten hit or if anyone was walking by they could’ve gotten hit,” Douglas said.
GPD was provided with video evidence after the Oct. 31 incident. The Galesburg Register-Mail reported that GPD seized three paintball guns from three men on Monday evening. The men then told the officers they were involved in a paintball war with another car.
“We don’t see it as misbehavior on the part of people wanting to shoot at each other or other people with paintball guns. It’s a very serious matter, people could get injured in a variety of ways and we’re going to keep as a very high priority,” Welker said.
Junior Keara Crook is a sponsored paintball player whose family owns a mobile paintball company that sets up events in the Midwest. She was upset to see equipment for her sport turned into a weapon.
“Even though it’s not supposed to be a weapon, people are turning it into a weapon. And it can be dangerous,” Crook said.
Crook said her family maintains strict safety rules when people are playing so that no one gets hurt. Masks are especially important and the only equipment Crook currently uses.
“We’re safe, we teach people how to play, we teach people how to be responsible,” Crook said. “If somebody on the field takes off their mask, everything stops immediately.”
Both Crook and Welker encouraged students who are shot at to protect themselves. According to Crook, students should cover their faces since that is the most vulnerable area. The paintballs can leave bruising in other places but can also do damage to the eyes.
Welker said that students should prioritize their own safety and not remain standing in the same place. At the same time, if it is safe to do so, they should look around for anything they can tell Campus Safety or the police and to call Campus Safety or 911.
Welker also noted that they had started to receive tips from the Knox community and that those tips have helped them in their work. They either pass the tips on or sometimes follow up on them themselves.
“We really do appreciate [the community’s] help. That’s the way it ought to work,” Welker said.