The FBI searched the campus police station at Northern Illinois University on Wednesday, weeks after a former NIU police officer was indicted on sexual assault charges and the department police chief was fired.
NIU spokesman Joe King said authorities were at the station but declined to elaborate. FBI spokeswoman Joan Hyde said agents and officers executed a search warrant at the campus, saying simply that it was part of "an ongoing criminal investigation" involving Illinois State Police, the U.S. Department of Education and U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
The university fired police chief Donald Grady on Feb. 19, saying he mishandled evidence in an investigation into allegations that a campus police officer had sexually assaulted a student in October 2011. A DeKalb County grand jury indicted the 25-year-old former police officer, Andrew Rifkin, later in February.
The FBI went out of its way to note that the raid Wednesday "is not in response to any public safety concerns" — apparently an effort to allay any anxieties among students and faculty at NIU, where a gunman killed five students in 2008.
The 6-foot-5, tough-talking Grady was hailed as a hero for sprinting from the police station and into an NIU classroom during the 2008 shooting. Survivors praised Grady for his bravery. The gunman, Steven Kazmierczak, committed suicide.
Grady's Madison, Wis.-based attorney, Michael Fox, said in a phone interview Wednesday that an investigation that the chief launched into an off-the-books repository for proceeds from the sale of university-owned scrap metal may have contributed to his dismissal.
Fox said eight NIU employees and one former employee were criminally charged in the case Oct. 16.
However, Fox had no information on the FBI raid, saying it could be related to Rifkin or the scrap-metal investigation, or something entirely different.
"Without equivocation, he (Grady) denies wrongdoing in any of these matters," Fox said.
Fox added that he didn't believe Grady's handling of the sexual assault case was the sole factor in his firing and that it could have been "retribution" for his investigation into the scrap-matter scheme.
A message left at a residential number for Grady wasn't returned Wednesday.
Rifkin's attorney, Bruce Brandwein, said he had been in court when the Wednesday morning raid took place and couldn't immediately comment about whether it was connected to his client's case.