Within an hour, UMKC senior Renita Johnson lost precious belongings and her room at Oak Place Apartments.
On Oct. 22, an accidental discharge of a firearm within the apartment complex struck a fire sprinkler pipe, releasing around 15,000 gallons of water. The resulting flooding caused damage to almost 40 students’ rooms.
Johnson lost almost $2,800 worth of property including clothing, her television and a laptop charger. More importantly, she also lost her valued DJ equipment—a DJ controller and a pair of QSC speakers.
Luckily, Johnson possessed renter’s insurance for belongings.
“I wasn’t really worried about the damages, but I think if I wouldn’t have had the renter’s insurance I would have been screwed,” Johnson said.
A statement released by UMKC in the evening following the incident detailed the events which transpired. An unidentified person had discharged the weapon, fleeing the complex immediately afterward.
The extensive damage done to the living spaces in Oak Place prompted the university to relocate Johnson and many other students. While renovations are under way, these students are being offered temporary housing in both Johnson Hall and Hospital Hill Apartments. Students choosing to move into Johnson Hall are being offered complementary meal plans as compensation.
According to Sean Grube, Director of Residential Life, renovation of the Oak Place Apartments has been quoted from 60 to 90 days.
Common spaces will be repaired first as a schedule is established for the affected student apartments.
“We want them [students] to be out of the Oak Place Apartments for as little time as possible,” Grube said. “So we’ll move probably a handful of apartments, get those all fixed. Then bring them back in and move kind of the next set.”
In the time following the incident, Johnson expressed some concerns regarding the university’s communication about the damage to her room. She recalled not having contact for almost an entire day and only after she reached out over Facebook.
Grube attributed the issues with communication to a clerical error on the university’s behalf.
“I think we tried to put out a really timely alert the night the [incident] occurred and let everyone know what was going on,” Grube explained. “We did have some communication errors because we had a housing database that was being updated. So some of our email addresses weren’t as accurate as we would have preferred them.”
Johnson also found the presence of a firearm troubling, commenting that incidents like these may cause people to worry about the potentiality of school shootings.
Grube was similarly troubled.
“It was certainly very troubling,” Grube said. “We want this to be a community where everyone feels safe and where students respect the rules that we have put in place. Part of it depends on us having a good community that follows the rules.”
To ensure that student property remains safe in light of future incidents, both Grube and Johnson recommended students purchase renter’s insurance.
“Get renter’s insurance. If all else fails it is not expensive,” Johnson said. “The most I’ve paid is [$15 to $17]. It’s all worth it, especially if you have valuables that you know you’re gonna want.”
“We try and do our best job to minimize any issues in the building,” Grube said. “But when an incident happens, your best bet is certainly to have that renter’s insurance.”
Grube was not able to comment on the whereabouts of the person who discharged the firearm within Oak Place. He did however confirm that UMKC Police are working with a city prosecutor in an ongoing criminal investigation.
Students seeking information on renovations to Oak Place Apartments or answers to any questions are encouraged to reach out to the Oak Place Business Office or the Departmental Business Office on campus.