As college students poured out of bars on The Ithaca Commons early the morning of April 9, witnesses said an altercation broke out between two men, causing one to pull out a gun and start shooting, wounding the other.
It was a regular night on The Commons for freshman Samantha Springer as she exited Sammy’s Pizzeria with her friend. After spending the night out with her friends, she had grabbed some pizza and was heading to meet up with the rest of her friends when she noticed a fight break out in front of the bar, Silky Jones, adjacent to Sammy’s, at around 1 a.m. She said she and her friends decided to stop and watch, thinking it was people messing around. About 10 seconds after they turned to walk toward the TCAT stop on Aurora Street, they heard a gunshot.
After the altercation Springer saw, one man was shot in the leg and back and was brought to the hospital, said Jamie Williamson, public information officer at the Ithaca Police Department. The alleged shooter, Yakez Cornett, 22, has been charged with second-degree attempted murder, first-degree assault and second-degree criminal possession of a weapon, according to a press release issued by the Ithaca Police Department. He is currently being held on $50,000 bail.
Although no one else was hurt, many Ithaca College students were on The Commons when the shooting occurred, witnesses said. Neither the IPD nor the college would comment on whether the victim was a student.
Rachel* was another college student on The Commons when the shooting occurred. She said she had left Moonies and was headed to Sammy’s Pizzeria when she heard the gunshot, which she said sounded like a firework.
“I did see a guy … fall to the ground,” Rachel said. “The guy with the gun was still shooting at him.”
With around 100 people on The Commons at the time of the shooting, she described the scene as “mass chaos.” When people realized someone had been shot, she said, people immediately began running. When police tackled the suspect Rachel said she and her friends began heading back toward South Aurora Street, where she saw the man who was shot being loaded onto an ambulance. The blood from the shooting stained the ground, she said.
Sophomore Emily Chavez, who ran a block past the TCAT stop on Seneca Street when she heard the shots go off, said the moment felt like it was in slow motion. She said she remembers looking at her friends, whose eyes were huge, as they all sprinted away from the area. Chavez said she started crying because the event was so terrifying.
“I thought about my mom,” Chavez said. “I knew she would hear it on the news the next day. You never want to hear of your child being shot.”
Freshman Jessica Hauser said she was walking down the hill to The Commons with friends to catch the TCAT when some people in a car pulled over and told her what had occurred. She and her friends turned around and walked back up to campus but were still confused.
“I was really nervous,” Hauser said. “I knew a lot of people who were in The Commons, and it could have been anyone.”
Hauser, hoping everyone was safe, said she then texted her friends.
Springer and Chavez said that although the situation was terrifying, their opinions on the safety of Ithaca has not changed. Springer said that incidents like these are random and that, overall, she is not worried to go out, though she may change some aspects of her behavior.
“I will probably be more aware and pay attention to little things, like if there is a fight happening,” she said.
Rachel said she does not plan to go out on The Commons while the shooting is still fresh in her mind.
“Maybe I was a little naive to think that Ithaca is this safe little bubble,” she said.
Hauser said she is not going to stop going out at night to The Commons, as long as she stays with her friends. However, she said she is more nervous and more careful because of this incident. Chavez said she still feels that Ithaca is a safe place because immediately after the incident occurred, she saw and heard police respond.
“You have to be aware of your surroundings, make sure that the people who you are with are ok and just help out as much as you can,” she said.
Both Chavez and Springer agreed that there is not much the college can do to respond to incidents like these other than inform the students of what is happening. However, Chavez said she would like to see the college send out a reminder of some general safety proceedings when going out at night.
*Name was disguised to protect identity of underage drinker
News Editor Grace Elletson contributed reporting to this article.