Campus News

More Than Just Enforcement: Campus Safety Officers Save Student’s Life

February 11, 2019

Hillary Hempstead

two people sitting side by side
Second-year Oli Bentley and Campus Safety Supervisor Leondist DuVall.
Photo credit: Yvonne Gay

During the January winter term, music major Oli Bentley worked on a TIMARA winter-term project, took a trip to New Orleans, spent time with family, and attended to some medical appointments—fairly ordinary activities for a college student to be doing over winter break.

But the Monday before Thanksgiving holiday break, Bentley experienced something very much outside the ordinary: she woke up in the hospital after being revived by Campus Safety Supervisor Leondist DuVall. The second-year student had suffered cardiac arrest in her dorm.   

Campus Communication Officer Tammy Kwilecki received a call from a student in Keep Cottage who found Bentley unresponsive near the third floor stairwell, and DuVall responded to the scene with Campus Safety officers Mark Hoyt and Larry Brown. After discovering that Bentley was not breathing and had no pulse, DuVall immediately began chest compressions while the other members of the team retrieved the Automated External Defibrillator (AED) from the Campus Safety vehicle and went to direct EMS to their location. DuVall followed the AED’s audible instructions, which administered an electric shock to Bentley’s heart to restore its normal rhythm.

Bentley was taken by EMS, first to Mercy Allen Hospital, and then flown by helicopter to Mercy Health Regional Medical Center in Lorain, where she was put into a hypothermic state to preserve brain function. She was given around a 6 percent chance of survival, and even then, physicians weren’t sure how much brain function she might have. But after a harrowing two days, she emerged from the hospital and has since made a full recovery. Through these events, Bentley discovered she had a genetic condition called catecholaminergic polymorphic ventricular tachycardia, which is characterized by an abnormal heart rhythm.

“I’m very lucky to have been taken care of so well by Oberlin Campus Safety, my [dorm] neighbor, and the doctors at Mercy, because all of those people worked really fast to make sure I’d be OK,” says Bentley.

The role of Campus Safety in a life-saving situation may come as a surprise, since most students regard the staff only as law enforcement officers: they patrol parking lots; write tickets; and confiscate paraphernalia.

“A lot of students think we’re just around for punitive reasons. Some think that when we show up we’re there to just get you in trouble and write you up. It’s my personal mission to change this thought,” says DuVall. “We’re here to provide service to the community. We don’t respond to a call and look to get someone in trouble. We just want to problem solve and then get on to the next call.”

Oberlin’s Campus Safety officers are trained to  respond to potential criminal incidents, suspicious activity, requests for assistance, and emergency situations—such as the one that took place with Bentley. Officers are also certified in first aid and CPR, receive active shooter training, and, most recently, they’ve been trained to administer NARCAN, a medication used to block the effects of opioids, especially in overdose.

For DuVall, his devotion to serving and ensuring the safety of the campus community is all-consuming. “When I’m on duty, I’m always thinking about what could potentially happen. There are thousands of staff and students to think about when we come to work. A [serious incident] can happen anytime, and we have to know what to do.”

Bentley agrees that students may be reluctant to call Campus Safety when there’s an issue, but she challenges that approach.

“Campus Safety is here to keep students safe. Yeah, the rules are part of being safe, so sometimes it seems like you’re just getting in trouble, but they serve a very important role on campus. Campus Safety does a lot more than most students realize.”

She acknowledges that students may be afraid to contact Campus Safety or law enforcement when they’re doing something they shouldn’t be doing and someone gets hurt. “But if something scary is happening, [those involved] should be making sure everyone in the situation is safe,” says Bentley.

When reflecting on her situation and the role Campus Safety played, Bentley says: “I’m eternally grateful for Leondist. He saved my life.”

“We are very proud of Leondist's professionalism and performance on campus,” says Mike Martinsen, director of Campus Safety. “On that day, Leondist kept his composure, remembered his training, and delivered for Oli, her loved ones, and our entire campus community. I'm very proud of Leondist and thankful Oli is doing well.”

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