Community in shock after tragic incident on campus

By Murphy Obershaw, A&E Editor

Newman University became part of a crime scene over the weekend in which a 13-year-old Wichita girl died. This week, some students are still struggling with the incident.

Wichita police reported that at about noon on Saturday, a citizen called in a report of a Ford Escape traveling westbound on Kellogg at Meridian and dragging a female. The car traveled through Newman’s campus before officers caught up with it at Kellogg and West Street. A 13-year-old girl was pronounced dead at the scene.

Kevin Palmer, 34, was arrested and charged with felony murder in the case.

Police later said that the girl was in the back seat of her family’s car at a restaurant, waiting while her family went inside for food. Palmer jumped into the running vehicle and fled the scene, and when the girl tried to escape by jumping out of the moving car, she became tangled in her seatbelt. She was dragged for several miles, police said.

At 12:47 p.m., Newman students received an automated text alert warning them about the situation.

“Parking lots for Fugate and Carrocci Halls are closed. WPD on scene — no danger — avoid this area,” the message said.

Students were not allowed to leave the dorm buildings.

Police cars were stationed around the parking lot and by West Street. There was crime tape extending from a tree next to the fence near the Landing — the residence of a couple of the ASC sisters — to a police car in the parking lot of Carrocci.

Another text alert was sent out at 1:19 p.m. notifying students that everything was clear.

President Kathleen Jagger sent out an email later that day explaining the situation to faculty, staff and students.

“A few minutes before noon, the driver traveled briefly through campus on McCormick Street and through residence hall and overflow parking before exiting to Edwards Street. The vehicle eventually went onto westbound Kellogg before stopping near West Street,” Jagger said in the email.

A prayer service was held in St. John’s Chapel on Monday to pray for the girl who passed away and for her family.

Director of Multicultural Engagement and Campus Life Joseph Shepard has talked with a few students who are still processing the event.

“Everything that happens in the community where our institution is located impacts our students directly, and particularly with this tragic and unfortunate situation that a few of our students had the unfortunate chance to witness. A lot of them were shaken up by it, even if they didn’t directly see it,” he said. “It’s hard to process and it will change how they view the world for the rest of their lives.”

Shepard said he encourages students to reach out to the counselling services available through Newman if they need it.

Students who need to talk are encouraged to reach out to the Runway Learning Center for more information about the counselling services.

PHOTO: Murphy Obershaw, A&E Editor