March assault draws attention to nighttime safety

When a stranger pulled Lindsey Rapinchuk into the bushes, put a gun to her chest and demanded her bag, she was in shock.

Rapinchuk, freshman in General Studies, was walking east near First and John streets around 9:35 p.m. on March 12 when she saw a man walking ahead of her. He turned as if he was headed into an apartment building.

"I thought nothing of it," Rapinchuk said.

Moments later, his accomplice grabbed her into the bushes.

"He just started screaming, 'Give me your bag, give me your bag,'" she said. "I yelled, 'Is this a joke? Are you kidding me?'"

When Rapinchuk refused, the man ripped away her wristlet and ran south toward Beckwith Hall with the other man.

"I didn't think the gun was real," she said. "I ran after them and that's when the guy with the gun fired a shot at me. I hit the ground."

Rapinchuk said the only thing she remembers about the next several seconds was being terrified. Then, a woman who worked in Beckwith Hall pulled up and brought her inside. Rapinchuk called the police.

She said even though she was unharmed, the experience has made her a lot more careful and altered her views about safety on campus completely.

"It's changed it 150 percent," she said. "I don't think of anything the same way, and I don't think of any person in the same way."

Even walking home at dusk after class reminds her of how defenseless she is, she said.

Recently, Rapinchuk spoke to members of her sorority, Alpha Gamma Delta, about the incident to make them aware and encourage them to be safe.

"I wanted the girls to know, give them some advice," she said.

Her tips for safety include taking precautions such as carrying a cell phone within reach, avoiding walking alone, being aware of his or her surroundings and walking in well-lit areas.

Someone put in a similar situation should react differently than she did, Rapinchuk said.

"Give them what they want if you're being robbed," she said. "You can always replace that stuff, but if you get shot, you don't know if you'll live."

Some of the advice mirrored that of Barbara O'Connor, chief of University police. In an e-mail sent out to the campus community after the incident, O'Connor urged people to use busy sidewalks, avoid walking alone and stay alert.

University police increased patrols as a result of the robbery and have been working with Champaign police to find the men responsible.

Rapinchuk described the men as black, slightly under six feet tall, thin, in their late teens to early twenties and wearing jeans and do-rags.

University police have asked for anyone with information related to the case to contact them at (217) 333-1216. Anonymous information can also be given through Crimestoppers by calling 217-373-TIPS or on the web at