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Suspect arrested in shooting that killed NIU student

1:30 p.m. UPDATE

DeKALB – A 19-year-old man is in custody for the Wednesday morning shooting death of Northern Illinois University student Steven Agee II.

Chaz Thrailkill, 19, of Markham, has been charged with first-degree murder, aggravated discharge of a firearm and aggravated battery with a firearm.

Thrailkill is not a student at the university and was in the city visiting a friend, according to police.

DeKalb Police Chief Bill Feithen said the suspect was picked up about 10:45 a.m. in the 1100 block of Varsity Boulevard in DeKalb, and more developments in the case are likely.

"We are certainly not finished here today," he said.

DeKalb County Sheriff Roger Scott said Thrailkill has not yet been brought to the county jail. Thrailkill's bond has been set at $3 million and he is next due in court Monday.

DeKalb County State's Attorney Clay Campbell said no one else is being sought in the crime and thanked the police deparment for its quick work.

"I cannot say enough about the outstanding police work that has been conducted in the last few hours," Campbell said.

Feithen said there was great cooperation from friends and witnesses who were at the party. He said there was no indication of drugs or alcohol playing a role in the crime. Feithen confirmed the shooting happened in the apartment, but said the weapon had not been recovered.

Feithen called it an "isolated incident," but added the department often sees visitors come into the community to commit crimes. The department is adding patrol around the university and working hard to prevent those occurences, he said.

"We're always concerned about the safety of our community ... we have our challenges, like any community does," he said.

Campbell said if convicted, Thrailkill could face a possible sentence of 20 years to natural life in prison for the first-degree murder charge, and up to 30 years in prison on each of the other two counts.

•    •    •


DeKALB – A 22-year-old student at Northern Illinois University has died after being shot in an off-campus incident.

Authorities were called at 2:10 a.m. to an apartment at 809 Edgebrook Drive in DeKalb for a report of shots fired, DeKalb Police Chief Bill Feithen said. An officer was on the scene by 2:11 a.m.

Feithen said there was a large party at the apartment complex and an argument occurred, which led to the shooting. Steven R. Agee II, of Park Forest, was shot in the chest and was taken to Kishwaukee Community Hospital in DeKalb, according to a news release from DeKalb Police. He was pronounced dead at KCH.

"There is no imminent threat to the university of community at large because the situation was an isolated incident that occurred as a result of an arguments that escalated between two people at an off-campus party," according to the news release from police.

A news conference has been scheduled for 1:30 p.m. today at DeKalb City Hall to discuss what police say is "a significant change" in the investigation.

The school's top administrators have been involved at the highest level, including being at the hospital with Agee's family, NIU spokesman Paul Palian said. Classes are not scheduled today at NIU, as the campus has already begun its Thanksgiving break.

NIU President John Peters said the campus community was saddened by the death of Steven Agee II.

"He was a victim of a senseless act of violence," Peters said in a statement posted on the NIU website "I have personally expressed my condolences to Steven’s family and friends. We will continue to support the Agee family with our thoughts and prayers."

The Daily Chronicle is attempting to contact Agee's family members.

Palian said Agee was a senior at NIU, studying sociology with an emphasis in criminology. Agee was expected to graduate in the spring. Agee was "very involved" in student activities, Palian added, and was a student worker for the NIU Student Association.

Caprica Cooper, human resource manager at Swinton Financial Group in Rockford, worked with Agee this past summer when he interned with the company from June through August.

"He was fun," Cooper said. "He always came in with a smile and was eager to work. He knew what he was doing was going to make a difference."

Cooper said Agee interned with the human resources department, helping review applications, conduct interviews and helped with employee training. She described Agee as a team player who was always willing to learn something new.

"Everything he did, he took it head-on," Cooper said. "He was just a fun guy. Always optimistic no matter what."

Agee attended his freshman and sophomore years of high school at Marian Catholic High School in Chicago Heights where he participated in wrestling and football, said Principal Sister Kathleen Tait. She said Agee had talked about going on to get a master's degree when he dropped by to visit the school just last week.

"He was just a very friendly and engaging young man," Tait said. "This was certainly a shock to all of us."

Feithen said the investigation into the incident was ongoing. The suspect is described as a black man, about 20 years old, and between the heights of 5'8" and 5'11", Feithen said. He is believed to have been wearing a dark jacket.

"The investigation is in progress at this time," he said about 3:30 a.m. "There were a lot of people at the party. We are in the process of interviewing those people."

Anyone with information about the incident is asked to call DeKalb Police at 815-748-8400 or DeKalb County Crime Stoppers at 815-895-3272.

This is the third shooting incident in 2011 that involved either an NIU student or was near campus.

The first was in April, when NIU linebacker Devon Butler was shot at an off-campus apartment. The second was in September when a shooting occurred across the street from campus, and the victim – who was not an NIU student – ran onto campus.

Peters expressed his thanks to the DeKalb police and fire departments for their "swift and thorough response" to the Wednesday's shooting.

"In this country, we send our children to college, and we expect them to be safe," Peters said in the statement. "Unfortunately, in our society today, we have come to see acts of violence involving young people as an all too common occurrence. There is a danger that we may become desensitized and accept increasing levels of violence as a fact of life.

"We cannot allow this to happen," the statement continues. "As parents, teachers, students, friends and members of our community, we must continue to make our world safe for young people to grow, thrive and reach their potential."

Although there are no classes on campus today, NIU is making counseling available for students or staff. Call 815-753-1206 for more information.

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