At about 8:10 p.m. Wednesday, April 12, nine shots rang out at Clark Street Beach in Evanston, witnesses told the RoundTable.

An 18-year-old Skokie resident, Jacquis Irby, was killed, the Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office confirmed Thursday morning, and two 15-year-old boys were sent to the hospital with gunshot wounds. One was in critical condition.

The incident was steps from the south end of Northwestern University’s campus, and within minutes after the shots were fired, Northwestern students began to sound the alarm in group chats with friends and classmates. “People were shooting @ south beach steer clear,” one person wrote on a group text at 8:12 p.m.

Yet students did not receive a text notification from the university’s emergency alert system until 8:47 p.m. In fact, before a schoolwide announcement went out to all student emails and phones, Northwestern’s official account tweeted about the shots fired and advised students to shelter in place at 8:42 p.m.

Northwestern issued a statement addressing its response to the Wednesday night Clark Street Beach shooting. Credit: Northwestern University

“We have received messages from community members expressing frustration with the length of time it took for the University to inform the community of the shooting and to shelter in place,” Northwestern President Michael Schill, Provost Kathleen Hagerty and Executive Vice President Craig Johnson said in a joint statement on Thursday. “The first message went out roughly 30 minutes after shots were fired. We agree we should shorten that window.”

The Evanston Police Department also did not make any public announcement about the shooting until 8:53 p.m., though Cmdr. Ryan Glew, the EPD spokesperson, said Wednesday night that officers were dispatched to the scene of the shooting at 8:09 p.m.

In a call with the RoundTable on Thursday, Glew said the nearly 45-minute delay in getting communication out about the shooting was the result of responding officers determining that the situation was not an active shooting, but rather a targeted event followed by the suspects immediately fleeing the scene.

“Had that been different and there was an active shooter, a shelter in place order could be delivered much quicker,” Glew said. “It would still take a significant amount of time for that to be accompanied by any factual updates. It was a matter of securing the scene and getting the necessary people in place.”

If the shooting had occurred “during business hours,” then more emergency personnel would have been on duty and available to respond more quickly, he added.

At 9:41 p.m., a little less than an hour after Northwestern put out the first emergency alert and shelter in place order, all students received a robocall about the incident.

“University police are responding to a blank at blank. Please avoid the area and await further info,” the automatic call said, speaking the word “blank” where information was presumably to have been provided about what happened and where.

“We already have met with key members of the leadership team to discuss what happened last night and have instructed them to review our response, our procedures and the phone communication that was sent in error to ensure we do better when the next incident happens,” Northwestern said in its statement.

Evanston Police Cmdr. Ryan Glew is interviewed Wednesday night about the Clark Street Beach shooting. Credit: Alex Harrison

That phone call also went out just 16 minutes before Northwestern and Evanston Police gave the all clear. Any ongoing threat “is believed to have passed,” according to the university, and EPD said it was confident that two suspects had fled north in a sedan and were no longer in the area.

Inside NU, a student blog typically covering Northwestern sports, issued a scathing editorial on Thursday calling the university’s response to the shooting “a complete and utter failure.”

“It’s incredibly horrifying the way this shooting has been treated by professors and administrators across campus,” wrote Gavin Dorsey, a junior at Northwestern and Inside NU’s editor in chief. “When the first shots were fired, hundreds of Biology 201 students were still taking a midterm exam. Rather than shutting it down and ensuring their safety, the students were instructed to continue their exams until they had finished.”

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Duncan Agnew

Duncan Agnew covers Evanston public schools, affordable housing, City Hall and more for the RoundTable. He also writes long-form investigations, features and the morning email newsletter three times a...

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  1. The City of Evanston needs to do better as well, having the lack of an alert system for its citizenry. If we can’t get rid of the guns, which unfortunately seems obvious, we need protections against them!

  2. I am pleased to hear that NU is “reviewing its safety and alert policies.”
    The City of Evanston MUST do the same. Neighbors to the incident (myself included) received NO word or warning until via the local news over an hour after the fact.
    I am saddened to learn of the death and injury of those directly involved. It could have been worse.
    The City needs to step up., NOW!