UIPD releases additional details in student death investigation

URBANA, Illinois – University of Illinois Police are continuing to investigate the circumstances surrounding the Jan. 20 death of Akul Dhawan, a student at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

Information collected so far supports the initial belief that the death was accidental, and no foul play occurred.

Mr. Dhawan, 18, was found deceased at about 11:08 a.m. Jan. 20 in the 1200 block of West Nevada Street, Urbana. A friend who lost contact with Mr. Dhawan had called police at 1:23 a.m. that morning, expressing that he was concerned for Mr. Dhawan.

Investigators have assembled a timeline of the initial police response to that call. The below information is preliminary and remains subject to the ongoing investigation. The initial police response was based on information provided to police at the time. Subsequent investigation into the circumstances of Mr. Dhawan’s death has shown that some of the information initially provided to police was inaccurate.

Initial police response

Timestamps may be approximate, depending on when activities were logged.

1:23 a.m. – A friend of Mr. Dhawan calls METCAD via the non-emergency number to say he is concerned about Mr. Dhawan.

1:25 a.m. – The METCAD telecommunicator adds notations to the dispatch ticket that the friend reported he last saw Mr. Dhawan at Busey-Evans Residence Hall and cannot find him. He cannot see Mr. Dhawan’s location on his phone and Mr. Dhawan is not answering his phone. The reporting person spoke with Mr. Dhawan’s roommate, who said he is not at his Presby Hall residence.

1:27 a.m. – The METCAD telecommunicator asks a University of Illinois Police Department (UIPD) officer to call the reporting person.

1:28 a.m. – The METCAD telecommunicator adds a notation to the dispatch ticket that Mr. Dhawan’s phone goes straight to voicemail.

1:28 a.m. to 1:35 a.m. – The UIPD officer calls the reporting person and updates the dispatch ticket. The friend reports that he last had contact with Mr. Dhawan about an hour prior (approximately 12:20 a.m.) at Busey-Evans Residence Hall, and that Mr. Dhawan possibly left with a different group of friends. The UIPD officer asks if Mr. Dhawan could be with friends on Green Street. The friend reiterates that Mr. Dhawan could be out with friends. No additional information is provided regarding Mr. Dhawan’s location, who Mr. Dhawan may be with or where they were going. The friend says that Mr. Dhawan may be intoxicated, but is not sure.

1:54 a.m. – The UIPD officer updates the dispatch ticket with a physical description of Mr. Dhawan: he was wearing a black sweatshirt, dark blue jeans, and glasses. He is 5 feet, 8 inches in height and has dark black hair parted in the middle.

2:09 a.m. – The UIPD officer documents a search he has conducted up to that point of areas around Busey-Evans Residence Hall, Presby Hall (where Mr. Dhawan lived), and the likely path between the two locations. The officer drove at a walking pace along a sidewalk between Bevier Hall and cultural houses on Nevada Street; past Foellinger Auditorium; north across the Main Quad, where the officer speaks with several people about whether they saw anyone; along a sidewalk between Henry Administration Building and Altgeld Hall; south on Wright Street to check bus shelters; west on Chalmers Street; north on Fifth Street; and exterior areas around Presby Hall. UIPD telecommunicators search to see if Mr. Dhawan had swiped his student identification at any campus locations. The searches and interviews do not yield additional information about Mr. Dhawan’s whereabouts.

2:09 a.m. – The UIPD officer documents that he has called Mr. Dhawan’s phone, which went straight to voicemail. The UIPD officer spoke with the reporting person to provide an update on his efforts to locate Mr. Dhawan.

2:57 a.m. – The reporting person calls the UIPD officer to say that he still has not been able to contact Mr. Dhawan.

4:40 a.m. – UIPD officer calls Carle Foundation Hospital to inquire whether Mr. Dhawan is there. He is not.

4:48 a.m. – UIPD officer calls OSF Heart of Mary Medical Center to inquire whether Mr. Dhawan is there. He is not.

4:51 a.m. – UIPD officer leaves a message for Mr. Dhawan’s roommate.

8:00 a.m. – A UIPD sergeant calls and speaks with the reporting person.

9:37 a.m. – Mr. Dhawan’s roommate returns the UIPD officer’s message and says Mr. Dhawan had not returned.

11:08 a.m. – A university employee exiting Bevier Hall sees Mr. Dhawan laying on concrete steps behind 1203 W. Nevada St., Urbana, and calls 911.

11:09 a.m. – The 911 call is dispatched.

11:12 a.m. – Multiple UIPD and Public Safety staff begin to arrive on scene and start rescue efforts, including CPR and the application of an AED.

11:14 a.m. – Urbana Fire Department arrives on scene.

11:18 a.m. – Ambulance arrives on scene.

11:21 a.m. – Medical responders cease efforts and the Champaign County Coroner is requested.

Subsequent investigation

Investigators have made these initial findings in the subsequent investigation of Mr. Dhawan’s death, which remains ongoing:

At approximately 9 p.m. on Jan. 19, Mr. Dhawan met with friends at Busey-Evans Residence Hall, where Mr. Dhawan consumed alcohol. At approximately 10 p.m., Mr. Dhawan and his friends attended an event at Canopy Club, 708 S. Goodwin Ave., Urbana. Around 10:45 p.m., Mr. Dhawan traveled with friends to Green Street. Security video obtained later showed him consuming more alcohol before the group returned to Canopy Club. Mr. Dhawan’s friends re-entered Canopy Club between 11:25 p.m. and 11:29 p.m. while Mr. Dhawan remained outside. He was denied entry by venue staff when he attempted to enter at 11:31 p.m. He continued to attempt to gain access to the venue multiple times, but was repeatedly denied by staff.

Around midnight, two different rideshare vehicles were called to pick up Mr. Dhawan outside Canopy Club. He declined both rides despite attempts by venue staff and a passerby to convince him otherwise. Subsequent phone calls and text messages sent by friends to Mr. Dhawan’s phone were not answered.

Information about Mr. Dhawan’s presence at Canopy Club was not communicated to police when the friend, who had been with him at Canopy Club, called police later in the night.

Investigators are continuing to collect information, including security camera footage and witness statements, to determine what happened after Mr. Dhawan left the area of Canopy Club. Some additional details have been collected by police and are being verified as the investigation is ongoing.

Citizen complaint

Last week, UIPD received a citizen complaint regarding the response to the reporting person’s call. The citizen complaint will be reviewed in accordance with UIPD policy and a response will be provided to the citizen filing the complaint. That review will run concurrent with the death investigation.

Investigation is ongoing

Police continue to investigate the circumstances around the events of Jan. 19-20 and will release more information as deemed appropriate. Police continue to seek any security camera footage or witnesses who could provide additional information.

Anyone with information is encouraged to contact the University of Illinois Police Department at 217-333-1216.

Witnesses who wish to remain anonymous can do so by contacting Champaign County Crime Stoppers at 217-373-TIPS, online at 373tips.com or through the P3 Tips mobile app. All messages to Crime Stoppers are received by a third party and are electronically stripped of identifying information before being forwarded to police.