UIPD concludes investigation into Jan. 20 student death

URBANA, Illinois – The University of Illinois Police Department has concluded that the Jan. 20 death of a student was accidental and has worked to take remedial actions.

Akul Dhawan, 18, was found deceased in the 1200 block of West Nevada Street, Urbana, just after 11 a.m. Jan. 20. The Champaign County Coroner later ruled that the cause of death was hypothermia, with acute alcohol intoxication being a contributing factor. Mr. Dhawan had gotten separated from his friends the night before, when air temperatures were around zero degrees Fahrenheit with -15 degree wind chills.

The University of Illinois Police Department completed a thorough investigation that involved speaking with numerous witnesses, collecting and reviewing hours of security camera video, and examining cellphone data and other information.

The investigation resulted in several actions:

UIPD later learned that Mr. Dhawan visited Canopy Club for a social event around 10 p.m. Jan. 19, left with his friends around 10:45 p.m., and walked to Green Street. While his friends went to a restaurant, Mr. Dhawan stopped at two liquor stores on Green Street, the second of which sold him a bottle of vodka without checking his age. The group returned to Canopy Club around 11:30 p.m. Mr. Dhawan remained outside while his friends entered. Mr. Dhawan’s friends called police at 1:20 a.m. Jan. 20. UIPD previously released a timeline of these events.

The store employee, Piyushkumar A. Patel, 42, of Mahomet, Illinois, has been charged with selling alcohol to a minor for failing to check Mr. Dhawan’s identification. The charge is a class A misdemeanor. In addition, the liquor store (Green Street Pantry, 308 E. Green St., Champaign) was cited, fined, and will serve a seven-day suspension for the sale of alcohol to an underage person.

The University of Illinois Police Department has completed an internal affairs investigation related to a citizen complaint it received shortly after Mr. Dhawan passed. An internal affairs investigation reviews whether any of its employees violated departmental policies in their handling of an incident.

The police officer who handled the initial call in the early morning hours of Jan. 20, when Mr. Dhawan’s friends reported that they could not find him, was found to have violated subsections under two department policies related to the process for investigating a missing person report and process for preparing documentation.

The officer has been placed on paid administrative leave pending completion of the post-administrative investigation procedures.

“Although we do not believe it is likely these policy violations related to process and documentation altered the outcome of the incident, it is important to take action to ensure our policies are followed as we strive to promote a safe and secure campus environment,” said University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign Police Chief Matt Ballinger. “This was a tragic accident that has weighed heavily on our campus community, and our thoughts continue to be with Akul’s family, friends and loved ones.”