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Univ. of Chicago students want campus police disarmed after officers shot student attacker

Student protesters at the University of Chicago want campus police to be disarmed after officers shot a student who allegedly had mental health issues. (Image source: WBBM video screenshot)

Students at the University of Chicago want campus police to be disarmed after officers shot and wounded a student who charged at them with a metal crowbar he had been using to damage cars and apartment doors, according to WBBM-TV.

Students have focused on reports from family and friends of the suspect that say he was having a manic episode at the time police shot him.

“If protocol means that someone is shot for having a mental health crisis, it makes it clear the police do not keep any of us safe, and only protect the interests of those in power,” protest organizer Tunisia Tai said. “We refuse to let this incident and all other incidents of police violence fall to the wayside. We refuse to let the University of Chicago and UCPD off the hook.”

What happened?

University of Chicago police responded to calls Tuesday that a student, 21-year-old Charles Thomas, was walking up and down a street north of campus damaging property with a large pipe or crowbar.

Police cornered Thomas in an alley and told him to drop his weapon, at which point Thomas charged at officers and was shot in the shoulder.

Thomas was charged with aggravated assault on an officer with a weapon and property damage, with his bond set at $15,000.

What are the protesters saying?

The protesters on campus believe the campus police should no longer carry guns, that their jurisdiction should be more limited, and that they should have known that the suspect was having a mental health episode and responded differently.

“This incident is a direct reflection of everything we stand against,” said Paola Del Toro, a member of Students Working Against Prisons. “The victim was charged with a felony, despite the fact that he was the one in danger.”

Students also want more transparency from the university police department, more mental health funding at the school, and independent oversight of the police department. The university has not publicly commented on the situation as of Monday.

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