Fifth Place Writing – Breaking News


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Community mourns for Andrew Boldt
By Michael Auslen

WEST LAFAYETTE – Moments before the shots were fired, before the news broke and the eyes of the country were focused on Purdue University, Jordan Vachon sat next to the open door of a basement classroom in the Electrical Engineering Building.
When he heard shouting from the room, he thought it was a debate, but as the yelling grew louder and more voices chimed in, he looked around the corner. A man stood, perhaps on a chair, his arms outstretched.

Then, a gunshot cracked through the air.

He realized why the other man must have been reaching his arms out in front of him. Vachon recognized him. It looked like Cody Cousins, a man he had met at a party a few weeks before.

“The only reason I remembered him is because he was introduced as Cousins,” Vachon said. “Never Cody, just Cousins.”

As he grabbed his belongings and ran out the door of the Electrical Engineering Building, Vachon looked back into the classroom. Four more gunshots rang through the air, police instructed bystanders to keep their heads down and students screamed as they ran out of the building.

“Oh my god, they shot him. There’s blood all over down there.”


Police and university officials still don’t know why Andrew Boldt, 21, was shot Tuesday afternoon. He was an electrical engineering student and a teaching assistant, although it isn’t known if he was teaching at the time of the shooting.

After leaving the building, Cousins turned himself in to the police and is now facing preliminary murder charges, Purdue University Police Chief John Cox said.

No one currently knows what prior connection Cousins and Boldt might have had, but Cox said the case is being treated as a homicide, not a normal active shooter.

Although Cox said the university was able to quickly notify students of the shooting, there was confusion about an order to “shelter in place” while police searched to ensure the danger had passed.

“Most of the students knew what was going on,” Purdue Provost Timothy Sands said. “I was impressed with how the procedures happened.”

Students and faculty were instructed that classes would continue. Later in the afternoon, th e university announced that classes would be canceled for the rest of Tuesday evening and all day Wednesday.

Police and university officials said they were pleased with how the campus responded.

“We look at scenarios that happen throughout the country and ask ourselves how we would handle that,” Cox said. “Unfortunately, sometimes we get pushed together with things like this.”


Hundreds of students flocked through bitter single-digit temperatures to a fountain near the campus’ engineering buildings.

As more and more flooded the plaza for the vigil, many with lit candles held tightly in their hands in front of them, quiet conversation rustled through the crowd. When the Purdue Bell Tower sounded 8 p.m., the gathered students grew silent. They looked expectantly toward an empty lit lectern on the steps of Hovde Hall, facing away from the building where tragedy had struck their community just hours before.

From the right of the crowd, a band approached, playing a soft marching drum roll that grew gradually louder as they marched to face the masses. They reached the bottom of Hovde Hall’s steps, and the crowd moved closer.

For those in the back of the throng, the sound of “Taps” came from nowhere, as the members of the band played from the level of the students.

Campus dignitaries spoke, calling the Purdue community together as a family and entreating students to seek help as the campus moved through rough waters together. “I didn’t know something like this could happen here,” sophomore Matthew Paquin said after the vigil. “We’re all mourning what happened here today.”

Sophomore Michelle Madalinski lit a fire lantern on the steps of the fountain after the crowd started to disperse. Some gathered around her to watch, although it burned up just after she released it.

“It was, for me, kind of signaling God’s taking an angel home,” she said. “Even if we don’t know Andrew on a personal level, it’s all a family on a college campus.”