The stabbing of a CU Boulder student that wasn’t? What we know and don’t (2024)

This story was co-reported with the CU Independent.

It appears to have taken off with a Reddit post at 6:47 a.m. on Saturday morning.

“There was a ‘college senior student’ just stabbed on Pearl St / 11th(?) at ~ 2:20am. BPD [Boulder Police Department] is canvassing the area and searching for suspect with a minimal description other than “transient male,” the post read.

Comments started pouring in. Some of those initial comments expressed skepticism about the accuracy of the incident’s details.

When asked about the origin of the information, the original Redditor said the source was a “police scanner recording.”

Meanwhile, a separate post found its way onto Nextdoor, containing the same information and linking back to Reddit.

Over the weekend, the Reddit post accumulated updates, with some referencing unconfirmed comments from Nextdoor as their source.

“Officer at hospital with the victim reported he is conscious and stable » Source: NextDoor comment,” one Reddit update read.

“Per the scanner, the police were following the blood trail to determine the site where the stabbing occurred. » (source: NextDoor comment),” read another.

“Edit: removing the police scanner recording link out of respect for the ongoing investigation,” read a third.

Boulder Reporting Lab has reviewed police scanner recordings from the night of the incident. The audio verifies some of what the police said on the radio but still leaves many questions unanswered.

By Sunday night, as the story spread across local social platforms and accounts, the CU Independent spoke with a Boulder police officer, who said he could not confirm whether the person involved was a student.

By Monday, the Boulder Police Department had not put out an alert or news release regarding the incident. The department normally shares official information through its social media accounts or news releases in cases of high-profile alleged crimes that could pose a community threat. A statement from Dionne Waugh, the department’s public information officer, started surfacing in both Reddit and Nextdoor discussions. The statement downplayed the severity of the incident, which was originally reported as a stabbing. Waugh referred to it as “a cut.”

“At approximately 2:30 a.m. on Saturday, August 26, Boulder Police received a call about a stabbing downtown,” Waugh wrote. “The initial investigation shows that there was an altercation near 11th and Canyon streets and an adult male was cut. His injuries are minor and the circ*mstances surrounding the incident are in the early stages of investigation.”

In response to an inquiry by Boulder Reporting Lab and the CU Independent, Steve Hurlbert, chief spokesperson for CU Boulder, said, “We are aware of an incident last weekend in downtown Boulder which resulted in injuries to a CU Boulder student.”

Follow-up questions seeking further information about the extent of the injury and whether the student required hospitalization were deferred to the Boulder Police Department.

Waugh said on Tuesday afternoon that the student was “cut and friends [drove] him to the hospital.”

Boulder Reporting Lab requested a police report for the incident. A department official said the report is still being completed by the officer, and the department was “unable to release the report at this time.”

Despite evidence suggesting otherwise, at least three reports from local news media still depict the incident as a stabbing. One television station referred to it as the “third stabbing” in downtown Boulder within a month, one of several “attacks that have been taking place in the downtown area.”

Boulder Reporting Lab and the CU Independent have been unable to verify whether the alleged victim received treatment at the hospital. Furthermore, neither news organization could confirm details regarding the alleged altercation, the nature of the injury, the use of any weapon or the number of people involved.

It’s also unclear who reported the alleged incident and details to the Boulder Police Department. No one in the department witnessed what happened.

As of Wednesday morning, the Boulder Police Department had not arrested any suspects, Waugh said.

The details of this case matter for several reasons, including the role such incidents might play in shaping a narrative in the lead-up to the city election in November. Four seats on the Boulder City Council and the position of mayor are up for election. Political organizers have said they’re seeking to drive voter turnout around the issues of public safety and homeless encampments.

The response to Saturday’s alleged incident illustrates how public perception and discussions around safety are already becoming central themes ahead of Nov. 7. A post on Nextdoor referred to the suspect as a “transient” and urged readers to “vote in November for candidates that make public safety their top priority!” Separately, a reporter with FOX31 KDVR in Denver who covered the incident quoted a supporter of the Safe Zones 4 Kids campaign — a campaign seeking to pass a ballot measure that would require the city to prioritize the removal of tents and propane tanks used by homeless people.

The response also shows how Nextdoor and Reddit have become de facto hubs for posting details surrounding alleged crimes in Boulder, often with people providing information on incidents without confirming their veracity.

In recent years, many news organizations have stopped publishing such “police blotters,as well as mugshots, that document daily police statistics or reveal identities without context and without following up to report on whether a person was innocent or convicted.

At CU Boulder, there has been little conversation about the incident on campus. Requests for comment from CU Boulder’s Division Student Affairs were not returned. CU Boulder student government tri-executive Chase Cromwell said that student officials weren’t given any additional information about what happened.

“In general, we tend to know more about incidents that occur on campus rather than off campus,” Cromwell said. “I share in the frustrations that BPD has not released more information about this.”

Clarification: The first sentence of the story has been clarified to avoid suggesting that the Reddit post was the initial social media mention of the alleged stabbing incident.


The stabbing of a CU Boulder student that wasn’t? What we know and don’t (2024)
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