Updated: Shooting victim out of surgery, still in critical condition
URBANA — Urbana police are not ready to say why they think a 22-year-old woman was shot in the northwest corner of the city early Wednesday.
"We're still sorting it out," a frustrated Bryant Seraphin said late Wednesday afternoon.
The lieutenant in investigations was awakened about 5 a.m. with the news that the homeless woman, who police know, had been shot about a half-hour earlier near the entrance of the Hamilton on the Park housing complex at the northeast corner of Wright and Eads streets.
All day, investigators collected evidence and talked to witnesses.
"We have different people who have been able to give us different bits of information," said Seraphin, unwilling to make any of it public Wednesday.
What he was willing to say is that the woman was walking alone on the sidewalk on Eads Street in front of the complex when she was hit by a man described only as being in his early 20s.
He wouldn't say how many shots police believe were fired or if she was a target or merely in the way of another target.
"We don't really know. Nothing has broken the case wide open yet," said Seraphin, adding that he's been in contact with his former co-worker, Champaign Police Chief Anthony Cobb, who is also feeling the stress of unsolved shootings in his city.
Seraphin said late Wednesday afternoon that the woman was out of surgery but still in critical condition. She has family in the area, he said.
Seraphin was also not prepared to say if the woman even had any connection to the housing complex, which has been the scene of multiple calls for police service in 2014.
In May, police Lt. Richard Surles said the city and the police department were working with the property managers to improve security at the 36-unit development for low-income residents. The complex opened in October as a replacement for Dunbar Court and was fully leased by January.
"I outlined a security plan and asked them to do certain things. They didn't balk at anything. They agreed to every suggestion I had," said Surles.
"One of the big things we asked them to finish was the fence. That was completed late last week," he said.
A bullet hit the newly installed fence Wednesday, Surles said, and a News-Gazette photo confirmed.
"I knew that some of these things couldn't take place overnight, like the fence. That was a very large fence that came at a significant price. That fence was more than $100,000," he said.
At Surles' suggestion, the on-site property manager also became full-time. He had been splitting his time between Hamilton and the Oakwood Trace complex in Champaign. The managers also hired part-time security guards to work overnight when the manager is not there.
"I spoke with a woman (Wednesday morning) who was on her way home from work and she said things have gotten better. The fence and the presence of security officers had helped," he said.
However, there was no security guard working when the shooting happened, Surles said.
"The next thing that I'm going to be moving on, and this was my plan before the shooting, is I had asked them to install security cameras. I knew that was going to take some time, too. There's only one way to eat an elephant — one bite at a time," he said.
"It is fair to say that management, the property management company, the owners, and the Housing Authority of Champaign County have been cooperative with the city and the police department in implementing the safety and security plan," Surles said.
The complex sits on land owned by the Housing Authority, which leases it to the Atlanta, Ga.-based Benoit Group under a long-term agreement. The Benoit Group contracts with a company to manage the property, Surles said earlier.
Anyone with information about the shooting is asked to contact Urbana police at 384-2320. Tips can be left anonymous with Crimestoppers at 373-TIPS, online at http://www.373tips.com or via text message by sending CCTip plus the information to CRIMES (274637).