Cedar Beach Park incident shakes students

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Cedar Beach Park the morning after the shooting, with Benfer Hall in the distance. Photo by Rebecca Clark '23.

Content Warning: This article contains mentions of gun violence.

In the early evening on Monday, Feb. 21, the sound of gunfire could be heard on Muhlenberg’s campus. Initial reactions were a mix of confusion and fear. At 5:53 p.m., Muhlenberg’s Omnilert system sent out a 911Muhlenberg alert: 

“Crime Notice: Shots Fired at Cedar Beach Park

Allentown Police informed Campus Safety of an off-campus shooting incident. Check email for details.”

Paltry information was provided in the email, but the community was alerted that, “At approximately 5:30, Allentown Police informed Campus Safety of a shooting incident between two vehicles at Cedar Beach Park. The suspects have fled the scene via North Ott Street, and the area is no longer considered dangerous. A police presence is still in place at the scene, and an investigation is ongoing. A shooting incident occurred between drivers and/or passengers in two vehicles: a red Honda and a white hatchback of unknown make and model. Police have not reported any injuries at this time.”

Matthew Baresh ‘25 shared, “My friend Josh [Botel ‘25] and I went to the park to play volleyball because it was a nice day out and thought it would be a good use of our time. There were so many people and families walking around, playing basketball and enjoying the nice weather. I remember hearing the loud bangs and originally not thinking anything of it until I saw everyone running and the noises continued. My heart instantly dropped and my friend and I immediately ran in the opposite direction, like we were in fight or flight mode. It wasn’t until we were a safe distance away that we fully realized what had just happened.”

Additional rumors circulated that a stray bullet may have hit Benfer Hall. These, however, seem to be unfounded. The Allentown Police Department (APD) released a statement which read, “Upon arrival, officers located casings on the scene. There were no physical injuries or property damage.” In addition, a reporter for The Weekly circled the hall and didn’t find any obvious damage.

On Tuesday, Feb 22., Chief Charles Roca of the APD announced in a statement on Facebook Live that a suspect, Carlos Medina, a 25 year old Allentown resident, had been arrested on multiple charges: “Firearms not to be carried without a license, which is a felony, terroristic threats, simple assault by physical menace, reckless endangering, and disorderly conduct.”

The College had planned a shelter in place/lock-down drill to occur this week, which was postponed to the week of Mar. 7 due to the events at the park.

It felt like time had stopped.

Grace Oddo ’22

Another Muhlenberg student, Grace Oddo ‘22, shared her experience at the time of the event. “I was interviewing a student for a web story, and all of a sudden we hear a series of loud pops coming from the Rose Gardens. The fact that I automatically assumed it was gunfire shows just how scary of a world we live in. We tried to continue the interview as normal but then a second round erupted. At this point, we see the cop cars from Campus Safety pull out of the parking lot and speed down the street, their sirens blaring. Everyone in Parents Plaza was frozen, I assume in fear. It felt like time had stopped. Afterwards, me and Rachelle Montilus [‘24]… went down to the lawn that faced Cedar Beach [Park]. The air was thick with gun smoke, along with a really potent smell. We sat in silence and watched the chaos. Neither of us had any words.”

Bridget Palermo ‘25 and Daisy Cunningham ‘25 had decided to go for a walk in the park to soak in the weather after their late afternoon classes.

Palermo shared that, “There was a giant group of people on the basketball court and then there were a lot of kids on the playground.”

Cunningham said, “We were about to walk across the pond when we heard all these popping noises all of a sudden. And I had never heard gunshots before, so I was like ‘What’s that?’ Everyone on the basketball court scattered, and I was like ‘Run…’ We booked it. We didn’t know where the gunshots were coming from. There were a lot of them… We hid behind a tree and then we heard more shots from right behind us. We tried to call the police but they didn’t pick up, we assume because everyone was trying to call the police.”

Palermo continued, “The shots stopped and then they started again so we started running again, and that’s when we ran to go hide under a bridge… When we were running from behind the tree to the bridge I saw the white car that they think is one of the shooters. I saw a white car drive in the parking lot that we had literally been in like four seconds before.”

it felt like a nightmare.

Daisy Cunningham ’25

The two students called campus safety and asked to be picked up from the park, which campus safety agreed to, but hung up the phone before the students could provide their exact location. Palermo and Cunningham ended up walking back to campus, and called campus safety to let them know. At this time, they were asked for any details they might have witnessed. 

“It sounded like it was coming from every direction. It was really scary,” Cunningham added. “It felt like a nightmare. I felt like I was running in a nightmare. I didn’t have control over my body, it just started running. And then I was so out of breath but I was just still running and there were still gunshots going off and it felt like a really terrible nightmare.”

Palermo commented on the time of day, and the noticeably darkening sky. “It felt like I could feel the world change. And I will never fucking be the same.”

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