Robert Cameron Redus was a senior who had twice made the Dean’s List at Incarnate Word University (UIW) in San Antonio. Instead of looking forward to his graduation in May, his parents and four brothers found themselves attending a vigil in his memory at the UIW convention center in December 7, the day after Redus was shot by a UIW police officer, Christopher J. Carter.
Police are still investigating exactly what happened between Redus and Carter. The young man’s death raises the question of whether — in an age that has witnessed the tragedies at Virginia Tech, Northern Illinois University and other schools — campus police should carry firearms.
What Happened in the Early Hours of December 6th?
Carter is one of 17 police officers employed by UIW, according to university spokeswoman Debra Del Toro; none carries a taser. The officers are licensed and trained as peace officers and, under the Texas Education Code, can “enforce state and municipal laws outside the campus jurisdiction in a variety of instances.”
According to My San Antonio, Carter was in a marked UIW pickup when he noticed Redus speeding and driving erratically in the early hours of December 6. Redus was not on campus when Carter saw him. With his emergency lights on, the officer followed Redus to the parking lot of his residence, Treehouse Apartments. Then, as Alamo Heights police Lt. Cindy Pruitt relates, Carter and Redus got out of their vehicles and “became involved in a struggle” during which the officer radioed for help and Redus was shot multiple times. An ambulance was called and Redus was pronounced dead at the scene.
Mohammad Haidarasl lives in a ground-floor unit in Treehouse Apartments. Right before he heard four to six gunshots, he recounts hearing a man “say, ‘Oh, you’re gonna shoot me?’ like sarcastic almost,” according to My San Antonio. Another neighbor, Bon Laurena, told the Express News that
“I just heard the shouting, and it woke me up. I heard ‘Stop!’ then four or five shots after that. I looked out, and I saw him bloody, lying on the ground.”
At the memorial, family and friends remembered Redus for “his outgoing spirit, helpful attitude and affection for everyone he met.” Kyle Leihsing, who has known him for about three years, described him as “one of the most level-headed people I’ve ever met,” adding that “what I have heard is completely counterintuitive to what I have known him to be.” Redus had been the co-valedictorian of his high school class in Baytown, Texas; Sara Davis, who is from there, says that Redus was “not an aggressive person at all,” so the account of him struggling with a police officer “doesn’t make sense.”
Should Campus Police Carry Guns?
UIW officials say that Carter, who has been placed on administrative leave, had an “extensive law enforcement background.” As both My San Antonio and the Express News say, in an eight-year law career in Texas, Carter had held nine jobs at eight agencies, “rarely” staying with one agency for more than a year. Carter’s neighbors describe him as having a “confrontational personality,” according to the Express News.
Questions have arisen about whether Carter, as a campus police officer, had the jurisdiction to stop Redus when he was off-campus. University of Texas at San Antonio criminal justice Professor Michael Gilbert tells the Express News that Carter was acting within his authority. While emphasizing that it is too soon to make any conclusions about the case, Gilbert comments that “one piece of information is ‘suspicious’ — whether the officer’s life was in danger.” Police are still investigating whether Redus had a weapon. If he was unarmed, the likelihood of his altercation with Carter “being life-threatening would be questionable,” as Gilbert says.
In the absence of concerted efforts to reform laws about background checks and other gun control measures, we’ve heard calls round the nation for campus police to carry guns, on the grounds that doing so would, some say, have made a difference in the tragedies at Virginia Tech and other schools.
It is the case that — and noting this just a few days before the anniversary of the Sandy Hook tragedy – college (in the U.S., at any rate) and schools are not what they used to be. But do campus police on every college campus need to carry firearms? Are such unnecessary at a campus (like the one where I teach in Jersey City, New Jersey) where police sirens routinely interrupt class and police have raided apartments a few blocks away?
Or does outfitting campus police with guns carry the very serious risk — too clearly illustrated by Redus’ death — that students could end up dead for “erratic behavior”?
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