Man allegedly goes armed in Willow

James Heggen and Rashah Mcchesney

Police arrested and charged a man for allegedly carrying a gun in Willow Hall on March 16. They have since released him based on a lack of evidence and disparate witness statements.

Jawon Jackson, 20, of Aurora, Ill., was identified by witnesses as the individual who allegedly carried a gun into Willow Hall.

According to court documents, witnesses said Jackson pointed a gun at Marvin Cosby, freshman in psychology and sprinter for the ISU track and field team, during a confrontation.

At approximately 12:53 a.m. on March 16, ISU Police received a call stating that a man with a gun was seen on the sixth floor of Willow Hall.

At 1:42 a.m., ISU officials activated the ISU Alert system, sending out text messages, e-mails and phone calls to students and faculty and staff members. At 2:50 a.m., ISU Police found Jackson in Room 6253 of Willow Hall.

Cmdr. Gene Deisinger said ISU Police and the Story County Attorney’s Office made the decision to arrest Jackson based on “several witnesses saying that he’d had a gun or pointed a gun at them.”

“Based on this information and witness statements, we had the foundation of probable cause,” Deisinger said.

Jackson was charged with going armed with intent, a Class D felony, carrying a weapon on school grounds, a Class D felony, and first-degree harassment, an aggravated misdemeanor. He was released from Story County Jail at approximately 9 a.m. Thursday.

After an extensive search, no weapon was found. Deisinger said the lack of evidence and contradictory information from witnesses meant ISU Police no longer had probable cause to hold Jackson. ISU Police and the Story County Attorney’s Office requested that the charges against Jackson be dropped “without prejudice.”

Deisinger said “without prejudice” means that, should further investigation reveal that Jackson did commit the crimes he was charged with, he could be arrested again.

Deisinger declined to say how many witnesses said they had seen Jackson with a gun. He also declined to comment on the prior relationship between the witnesses and Jackson.

Jerry Stewart, director of public safety, said Jackson was an authorized guest of one of the witnesses but declined to say which one.

Jackson is listed as a Facebook friend of Brinn Melody, freshman in kinesiology and health sciences, who resides in the room in which Jackson was found.

Melody also declined to comment on the situation. The other resident of the room, Elise Pederson, freshman in pre-business, is not listed in court documents and also declined to comment.

One element that linked the parties was that Marvin Cosby and Jackson raced against each other in high school.

As a junior at West Aurora High School in Aurora, Ill., Jackson placed fifth during a 400-meter race against Cosby, then a senior at Frankfort Lincoln-Way East in Mokena, Ill., according to the 2007 Illinois High School Association track and field state finals results.

In May 2006, Jackson, then a junior, and Cosby, also a junior, ran in a 4-by-400 relay.

During the 2007 race, Jackson and Cosby raced in two different heats, with Jackson running the better time. During the 2006 relay, they raced in the same heat, and Jackson’s team qualified for the finals while Cosby’s team failed to advance.

Dean of Students Dione Somerville said she found out about the incident later in the morning of March 16.

She said a core group of Iowa State’s critical incident response team responded to the incident.

“The dean of students is the chair of that group, and it includes both the director of public safety and the commander of the special operations unit,” she said.

Aside from the core group that responds to the incident, she said, the group includes the members of the university council, the provost’s office and the graduate college.

“It’s a pretty inclusive group,” she said. “Usually, when there is an incident on campus, there’s a smaller group that responds to it initially.”

Somerville said although she wasn’t personally aware of any other incidents of this nature stemming from guests in the residence halls, there were safety issues students should consider.

“A lot of times, if a student will open the door for someone they don’t know, it isn’t a really good practice to follow,” Somerville said.

According to court documents filed by ISU Police Sgt. Elliot Florer, witnesses said Jackson went to his vehicle parked in Lot 63 outside of Willow Hall, where he was alleged to have retrieved a gun.

Deisinger said he was not aware whether Jackson had a key card to access the building with.

“Well, I think anytime a situation like this happens, we review everything that we do – all the procedures we have in place, all of the communications that we have with students,” said Virginia Arthur, associate director of residence halls.

A meeting will be held at 8:30 p.m. Monday in the Willow Hall main lounge. The meeting is open to Willow Hall residents and will include a review of how the situation was handled.

Deisinger said ISU Police have searched the grounds outside of Willow and all the open rooms inside. Police could not search locked areas. He said any student who finds a weapon should contact ISU Police.