UW-Oshkosh Police Chief Responds to Student Concerns Following Armed Robbery

(Surveillance image courtesy of UW-Oshkosh Police Department)

The investigation into the armed robbery of a Thillens ATM courier on the UW-Oshkosh
campus Wednesday morning continues – as students continue to voice concerns and
anger with the delay in notification from law enforcement. 

Police Chief Kurt Leibold responded to those concerns, saying that everything
was handled as quickly and thoroughly as possible. 

He tells us that “now
that we’ve gone into this investigation, it looks like it took them less than a
minute to pull this off and get out of here. So by the time that first Titan
Alert went out, there was no more danger to this campus. We had to go through
our investigation and it took us about 35 minutes to get to that point, which
in the police world is pretty quick to figure out what went down and have a
pretty good idea after interviewing witnesses and viewing surveillance.”

Leibold adds that dealing with student response is difficult, especially when they work to quickly issue a Titan Alert about the incident. 

He says “by the time we get there, the event has already occurred and we’re interviewing the victims and the people that saw it happen. So there’s that time lag right there, and our community thinks that it’s happening at that moment. And like I said, we’ll have to do a better job in the future of communicating that to the community. We’re in the middle of something at that time and working on the police end of it.”

Leibold explains that the communication on campus for this kind of event is significantly faster than what happens in non-campus settings. 

He says “the Titan Alert is what makes an infinite difference from if this had happened in a municipality. Most citizens don’t know an armed robbery occurred until they see it on the news. We have the ability to communicate with our entire community, which is 15,000 people, and let them know instantly that stuff had happened. That certainly changes perspective for people because they now know all the information that we know.”

He also points out that while there was no danger to people on campus, even by the time the Titan Alert was issued, that “obviously the community didn’t see it that way, and that’s something that we’ll work on. What our community is thinking right now is – they went immediately from armed robbery to active shooter – and that caused a lot of emotional concern.”

Many students took to social media and emails to administration, arguing there should have been an immediate lockdown of the entire campus. But Leibold explains that with a campus of 15,000 people and 53 buildings, it’s not quite as simple as just locking the doors. 

He says “there’s so many ways to think about that. If you have an active shooter and you lock all the doors, let’s say we are able to do that, what about students that are in-between buildings? Now they’re locked out of buildings, does that make them vulnerable? What if the shooter is in a building and we lock the shooter in a building – what does that do for people that are inside? So that’s why I think every situation is unique. Decisions have to be made on the details of each individual incident.”

A handful of students online – and that we have talked to – also questioned a lock down at Dempsey Hall, the school’s administrative building. 

Leibold says “some of the offices that have the financial – the financial offices that have the money for the university locked down their doors during the event, right after the Titan Alert went out.”

Any other offices or rooms that were locked down after the alert were done under their own discretion, as Leibold did not initiate any kind of shelter in place or lockdown order. 

Students we spoke with prior to Leibold’s response showed continued disdain for how the situation was handled. Leibold held a forum with campus staff and administrators Thursday morning to address the incident and what had all happened. He tells us there is also a forum Thursday evening where he will address the concerns of students. 

The belief still holds that this was a targeted attack on the Thillens courier, related to several other incidents in the Madison area since September. It’s believed the suspects immediately fled the campus vicinity and made their way back to the Madison area. The UW-Oshkosh Police Department is working on the case with assistance from Oshkosh Police, the Winnebago County Sheriff’s Department, State Patrol, and other agencies around the state. 

For our initial report on the armed robbery, click here