SIU student shooting spurs conversation on gun violence


Michelle Dietzel, a second-year student at Southern Illinois University Carbondale (SIU), was injured in a shooting near campus on the night of Oct. 23 during a student party.

Dietzel was shot in the head while attending a student party on the 700 block of West College Street, according to a police report. She was one of two victims of the shooting.

The shooting took place at approximately 2 A.M.


Dietzel attended the party with her friend Anna Schmersahl, another second-year student, and another unnamed friend. Schmersahl said the two were together before the party. 

“Next thing I know, I see someone run through the front door from the porch yelling, ‘get down,’” Schmersahl said. “I heard one pop, and I grabbed Michelle, pushed her and my friend on the ground, and laid on top of them.”

Schmersahl said multiple shots were fired, but the trio laid on the ground until they felt it was safe. At this point, Dietzel was saying she could not see, and Schmersahl dragged her into another room where 911 was called. When Schmersahl noticed blood coming from what she believed to be a head wound, she sought help from Emergency Medical Services (EMS) which had arrived on the scene.

“I took her arm around my shoulder, and started pushing people out of my way,” Schmersahl said. “I saw red and blue lights outside, and I opened the door, grabbed the first officer I could see, and had him check Michelle’s head.”

Schmersahl and the third friend were questioned about the night’s events by an officer before being released. As the pair was leaving, she was hit by a car attempting to leave the area. She was taken to the hospital by EMS, where she was able to inquire about the status of Dietzel’s injuries.

“They got her consent for me knowing her information, and that’s when I found they actually found the bullet in her skull, and I will say my heart plummeted to my stomach,” Schmersahl said.

While in the hospital, Schmersahl contacted Dietzel’s boyfriend, who then notified the Dietzel family of the shooting. Schmersahl was released from the hospital that night, after examinations showed no major injuries from the impact of the car.


“Really, it was just a really long, very traumatic night,” Schmersahl said. “I know you can’t predict every little thing, but I wish things were a lot safer in this town.”

As a result of her injuries, Dietzel suffered temporary blindness following her injuries. She has since recovered some of her sight, though she’s lost peripheral vision, according to an interview with WSIL.

Dietzel said she feels dissatisfied with the way the school administration has been taking accountability for the shootings around campus.

“I feel like they’re not taking responsibility on their part of this,” Dietzel said. “They took three days to send out an email about the event while people were out partying that entire weekend.”

Dietzel said the police know who the perpetrator was, but she’s unable to say more due to pending legal proceedings.

“It matters to students to feel protected on campus,” Dietzel said. “When they don’t take responsibility and action after things like this it really changes how your students feel about your school.”

Dietzel’s shooting injury takes place at a time when gun violence has become a topic of conversation within the communities of Carbondale, and during a semester in which four Salukis have already died.

Nancy Maxwell is the director of Carbondale United, a local organization aiming to create a better community through organization and direct action.

Maxwell said gun violence is a multifaceted community problem with multiple causes.

“Lack of support, poverty, systemic racism, lack of things to do, lack of places for young people to go all contribute to the problems we’re seeing now,” Maxwell said.

Poverty and income inequality were correlated with homicide and violent crime in an article printed in the School Science & Medicine Journal, a Netherlands-based, peer-review academic journal, in 1998.

Economic policy writer Kyle Moore wrote an article with the Economic Policy Institute, a nonpartisan think tank which focuses on middle and lower class economic issues called, “Racial disparities in unemployment persist, despite claims of a ‘labor shortage.’”

In the article, Moore examines the 2021 Fiscal Third Quarter (Q3) rates of unemployment from the Bureau of Labor Statistics broken down by race on the state and national level.

According to the article, the national Black unemployment rate for Q3 decreased from 9.2% to 7.1%. This compares with the national White unemployment rate decreasing from 4.7% to 4.3%.

The statistics said the ratio representing the Black to White unemployment rate in Illinois was 1.9, indicating a rate nearly twice that of the White population in the state.

According to U.S. Census data, areas with a predominantly black population in Carbondale have a poverty rate of 53.6%. An individual is considered to be in poverty if they receive less than $12,880 per year, scaling by approximately $4,500 with additional members of the household.

Maxwell said there is little recourse for youths in the community suffering from harmful or dangerous home environments, particularly for Black male youths like those involved in the majority of gun violence in Carbondale.

“There’s a young man we’ve been trying to help who’s having problems with his mom,” Maxwell said. “We tried to get him a place somewhere other than that home, and, with the difficulty we have faced trying to help him, I can imagine it’s very despairing to him.”

Maxwell said students often show signs of difficulties in their daily lives by acting out and hoping someone will help them. She said when a similar situation occurred in her life, she was aided by a local community center, and a social network of people inside and outside the community.

“Unfortunately, not every child has that type of support system,” Maxwell said. “Once again, nobody’s paying attention to the children with the warning signs.”

Maxwell said a major issue Black communities face is the feeling they cannot trust institutions ostensibly designed to help them.

“I think [the Department of Child and Family Services] DCFS has a harder road to go on than the police do,” Maxwell said. “It was put in place to help families and maybe provide some of the resources they don’t have to keep the family intact.”

Maxwell said a major issue with both DCFS and the police is the lack of help which can be administered unless criminal or neglectful behavior has taken place.

“When he went to the police, the student we were trying to help was told by law enforcement to go home,” Maxwell said. “They said they couldn’t do anything unless he came back with bruises. So what do you do when you get in a place like that?”

Maxwell said she promotes the use of the Dentmon Center, a local indoor sports center, as a place for community involvement and youth development.

“We’re starting a Midnight Basketball Run on Fridays where people 14 to 24 can come play basketball from 11 to 2 A.M.” Maxwell said. “There will be people they can talk to. They will be fed. They’ll get a jersey and a bag so people can know where they’re coming from and where they’re trying to get to.”

Maxwell said the Dentmon Center is a good first step to changing the community, but it cannot be expected to be the only facet to solving the problem of gun violence in Carbondale.

“It’s a start, but now we need other programs to come around that will hit other interests like singing or acting or another sport besides basketball,” Maxwell said.

Maxwell said other groups exist in the area with a similar goal of building a better community, but coordination between the groups would better serve their goals and the community at large.

“I’d like to see other area groups join in the effort and we can do it all together,” Maxwell said. “This is not something one group can take on by themselves, and, since most of this violence is perpetrated by Black youth, Black leaders need to take the lead in this endeavor.”

Staff reporter William Box can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter at @William17455137. To stay up to date with all your southern Illinois news, follow the Daily Egyptian on Facebook and Twitter.