Early in the morning Sunday, Sept. 11, longtime East Lansing resident Sallie Kribbet was awakened by the sound of gunfire just outside her downtown condo.
“I thought there had been a mass shooting,” Kribbet told ELi in an interview this week. “That someone had taken an AK-47 and mowed down students.”
After checking on her dog, Kribbet looked out her window in the City Center condominiums above the CVS store downtown. She was relieved to not see bodies lining the streets, but was horrified by the pandemonium unfolding. Kribbet said she saw large groups of people fighting and officers shielding pedestrians fleeing the violence.
“I’ve never had, in my life, the fear that I had and I’ve never seen the violence [that I saw that night],” Kribbet said.
The 61-year-old Kribbet said, over the past 20 years living in downtown East Lansing, she’s seen crimes like vandalism and rioting, but nothing like she saw that morning. It was later revealed police found 31 casings from three different caliber guns at the scene.
“You destroy property, it can be replaced or repaired,” Kribbet said. “This was human beings attempting to harm or kill human beings.”
Then things got even worse.
About a week later, on Saturday, Sept. 17, Kribbet went outside around 10:30 p.m. She had been elected to the board of her condominium association and said she thought she owed it to residents of the building to get a feel for the late-night downtown environment following the violence the weekend before.
Kribbet saw plenty of police officers, which she said led her to let her guard down. While walking toward the corner of M.A.C. and Albert Avenues, Kribbet was suddenly surrounded by a group of young people. While waiting on the street corner opposite The Riv, Kribbet said she was pushed so hard she fell to the ground, twisting her leg and badly scraping her hands and knee.
The two incidents have left Kribbet traumatized. She said she has been a dog owner since 2007 and gotten used to taking her pets out frequently. Now, she won’t go outside past dark.
Kribbet isn’t the only one concerned about the recent violence.
President of the City Center Condo Board of Directors Steve Angelotti was out of town the night of the big shooting but later found out bullets had pierced a resident’s window and a window in the CVS.
He is grateful no residents of the building were harmed during the shooting, but can imagine less fortunate scenarios.
“While someone wasn’t at the window at the time, you could see a situation where somebody would have heard a lot of noise outside, more so than usual at that time of night, just gone to the window to see what’s going on and been in the line of fire,” Angelotti said. “Something really bad could have happened there.”
Angelotti said he understands no city is immune to violence, but with events like the shooting, Kribbet’s assault and the Saturday, Sept. 3 brutal attack on a Crunchy’s worker, the city needs to make things safer.
“We’ve had incidents in the past, but this has become more and more of a thing [over the past couple years],” Angelotti said.
Angelotti said his condo association would welcome a dialogue with the city so the two entities can better understand each other’s perspective and work together to keep people safe. He recommends city officials reach out to downtown businesses and residents. He also said the city should look at best practices used in other cities and utilize the colder months, when there are fewer people downtown, to find solutions.
Kribbet also would like to see more done. She said the city should develop a reliable warning system similar to Michigan State University where residents are alerted immediately when there are threats of violence. In 2021, she said she took her dog out just hours after a man was shot in the CVS parking garage, unaware of the nearby threat.
Additionally, Kribbet said she would like to see more Public Safety Announcements giving advice about how residents can protect themselves. She would also like the city to survey downtown workers about their feelings on safety, so officials can better understand what the workers have experienced.
The recent incidents of violence were a main topic of discussion at the Tuesday, Sept. 20, East Lansing City Council meeting, where several residents voiced their concerns.
“I hear the concerns about violence, I share them,” Councilmember Lisa Babcock said.
Babcock was upset she did not receive an alert from the city’s emergency notification provider, Nixle, after the shooting. By contrast, Michigan State University’s notification system sent an alert at 2:35 the morning of the incident.
Members of the public can sign up for various emergency notifications here. Notifications from MSU are available to everyone, not just people who are affiliated with the university.
At the Sept. 20 meeting, Mayor Ron Bacon acknowledged residents’ concerns, but set the record straight that the reason for the increased violence was not any defunding of the police department.
“We’ve done nothing to reduce their budget, so that’s a mythical function that’s floating out there,” he said. Bacon added that hiring social workers and community officers has freed up time for officers to focus on police work. But ELPD has struggled to hire and retain officers and social workers, a situation not different from many police departments state- and nation-wide.
Bacon went on to praise tactical adjustments and partnerships police have made recently to increase readiness. He did not elaborate on what those changes are because, he said, he did not want to give away any advantages they may carry. He continued to say the city would re-examine the downtown layout in hopes of finding ways to improve safety.
“Lighting, cameras, any structural thing you can think of in the design and makeup of the downtown will be under investigation,” Bacon said.
Bacon said it is important the city maintain its fun and hospitable environment in the downtown area while working to make the city safer. He said there will be “sweeping” moves made that involve more than just law enforcement.
“Everyone’s going to be called and asked to do something,” Bacon said. “Including all members from hospitality, all the way down to the people who pick up trash.”
Update: This article was corrected on Sept. 30, 2022, to correct the name of the condo association from “Center City” to “City Center.”