Mt. Vernon Register-News

State News

March 7, 2013

FBI searches NIU police station

 

CHICAGO (AP) — The FBI searched the campus police station at Northern Illinois University for at least eight hours on Wednesday, weeks after a former NIU police officer was indicted on sexual assault charges and the department's longtime police chief was fired.

By the end of the day, however, there was no official word about why federal authorities raided the tiny building at the heart of the 25,000-student campus sometime before 8:00 a.m. and stayed late into the afternoon.

FBI spokeswoman Joan Hyde said only that search warrants were executed on campus in "an ongoing criminal investigation" involving Illinois State Police, the U.S. Department of Education and U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The university fired police chief Donald Grady from his $200,000-a-year job on Feb. 19, accusing him of mishandling evidence in an investigation into allegations that a campus police officer had sexually assaulted a student in October 2011.

Days after Grady's dismissal, a DeKalb County grand jury indicted the 25-year-old former officer, Andrew Rifkin — reinstating charges that were filed and then dropped in November last year as authorities criticized the handling of potential evidence.

As Wednesday's raid began, the FBI went out of its way to note it "is not in response to any public safety concerns" — apparently an effort to allay any anxieties among faculty and students at NIU, where a gunman killed five students in 2008.

The 6-foot-5, tough-talking Grady was hailed as a hero for sprinting from the police station and into the nearby NIU classroom during the Feb. 14, 2008, shooting. When he and other officers arrived, the gunman, former NIU student Steven Kazmierczak, had already committed suicide. But survivors praised Grady for his bravery.

Grady's attorney, Michael Fox, said Wednesday that an investigation the chief launched into an off-the-books repository for proceeds from the sale of university-owned scrap metal may have contributed to his dismissal. The investigation led to criminal charges against eight NIU employees and a former employee last year.

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