Community reacts to IUPatty’s shootings, celebrations

As the IUP and Indiana communities recover and take stock of the aftermath of the most recent IUPatty’s celebration, an informal, nonsactioned event in which IUP students participate in St. Patrick’s Day-themed festivities, tragic events have dominated the conversation.

During the early hours of Saturday morning, two separate shootings occurred within blocks of the IUP campus, according to the Indiana Borough Police Department.

The first shooting took place at 12:53 a.m. at the intersection of North 12th Street and Philadelphia Street when Thomas Stanko, 21, of Fort Campbell, Ky., accidentally shot his cousin Julian Cole, of Pittsburgh, during a confrontation with three other men. An unidentified victim was also shot in the thigh and foot.

The second shooter, Matthew McNevin, 20, of Indiana, fired at fellow Indiana resident Carlos Recalde-Campos, 21, at 1:39 a.m. at 1228 Oakland Avenue.

Recalde-Campos passed away a few hours later at UPMC Presbyterian Hospital in Pittsburgh, according to Indiana County District Attorney Patrick Dougherty.

Samantha Riley, 20, also of Indiana, was wounded in the second shooting and taken to Conemaugh Medical Center in Johnstown, where she is currently in an intensive-care unit.

A GoFundMe page has been created by a friend of Riley’s in hopes of assisting with medical expenses.

The shootings did not involve any IUP students.

Campus officials were quick to respond to the situation, as students were immediately alerted via the IUP Emergency Notification System of the incidents and advised to “take cover.”

Local police were also quick to take action, as the two suspects were shortly identified and arrested following the shootings.

While the violence occurred off campus, the effects were still felt by members of the IUP student body.

Students such as Emily Willow (junior, nursing) and Richard Roth (junior, education) expressed concern over non-IUP students’ participation in IUPatty’s.

Willow said that, although she lives on campus, the shooting was “nerve-wracking.”

Despite the sobering start to the weekend, many students still managed to enjoy the unofficial holiday.

For freshman Niko Tilghmen (business management), his first taste of IUPatty’s as a college student was “beyond comparable. It was pretty fun.”

This weekend was also a first for Kirsten Richards (freshman, marketing), who said she found the whole thing to be “pretty insane.”

Richards said what struck her was the sheer volume of people and activities that the weekend offered.

Richards was, however, disturbed by how close in proximity to campus the shootings were.

“The one wasn’t even half a mile off campus, and it’s just scary that stuff happens so close,” she said. She added that she felt the police handled the situation pretty well and was reassured by how quickly they acted.

Many in the Indiana community expressed concern over the weekend’s violence and party-driven incidents.

House Majority Leader and IUP alumnus Dave Reed, R-Indiana, posted on Facebook: “This event must end completely. It will take all in our community to make it happen, not just the university, the borough and the township. Zero tolerance.”

An online petition at Change.org, titled “Concerned citizens against IUPatty’s events,” had 1,273 signatures by Monday evening.

The petition called for “additional actions [to be] taken to diminish the negative impact that the annual IUPatty’s events have on our community.”

Petition organizer Jennifer Rairigh said it would be taken to the Indiana Area Collaborative Team.

John Rea (freshman, nursing) said while things got a “little crazy” and the shooting probably wouldn’t have occurred if it had been a typical weekend, he didn’t anticipate the experience preventing him from enjoying the event in future years.

While many of the headlines about the weekend tended to focus on some of the negative aspects of IUPatty’s, not all IUP students chose to participate in the festivities.

Some students spent the weekend volunteering in collaboration with the area’s churches.

The Indiana Summit Church helped feed law enforcement members who were working long shifts throughout Friday and Saturday.

Coalition for Christian Outreach worked with Graystone Presbyterian Church to provide free water, hot dogs, phone charging stations and games for passersby.

IUP’s weekend March Mingle events, sponsored by the Center for Multicultural Student Leadership and Engagement, also offered alternative activities, such as Saturday’s laser tag tournament, lawn games and free food.

Sunday saw another group of students giving back to the community, as more than 500 members of 32 Greek Life chapters and the Student Government Association helped to clean up trash left by revelers around the town.

This group included members of the Gamma Xi chapter of Zeta Tau Alpha, which, according to Elyse Gessler, the general adviser of the sorority, “participates in Clean Up the Streets to demonstrate their commitment to Indiana and their campus.”

“Service is something that is important to all ZTAs,” Gessler said, “and the chapter is always eager to give back to [its] campus and community in any way [we] can.”