Pallbearers carry Michael McKinney’s casket out of Saint Vincent de Paul Catholic on Nov. 12, 2003, in Bedford, Ind. University Police Department rookie officer Robert Duplain shot and killed the Ball State senior 10 years ago during a response to a burglary-in-progress call. DN FILE PHOTO WILL VRAGOVIC
Family, friends honor student Michael McKinney a decade after death
Jim Campbell can’t recall the first time he met Michael McKinney, but he remembers he was laughing.
The alumnus hasn’t heard his fraternity member and friend’s laughter in 10 years, but it is still clear in his mind.
“I miss him, but the tears are gone,” Campbell said. “But it is the laughter that I remember the most.”
University Police officer shot, killed senior Michael McKinney Nov. 8, 2003 while responding to a burglary call.
After a decade, friends and family still gather to honor his memory.
“I lost that person I could call and just dump on to with no regrets or retaliations. It took me several years to really pull myself out of the funk I put myself in once he died. It sucks, I’ve thought about him every day since. I can’t not do it. I’ve had grandparents pass since then, and it was tragic and it hurts, but they weren’t ripped away like Mike was.”
- Jim Campbell, his fraternity brother
“Everyone loved to be around him and was always smiling. He was the teddy bear of the group.”
- Rosie McKinney, his sister
“We want the students to be aware of the situation, considering that they weren’t there when this all happened. We want this to be fresh in their mind that this can happen, but to remember my brother, as well.”
- Lisa McKinney, his mother
On Nov. 8, 2003, University Police Department rookie officer Robert Duplain shot and killed McKinney, after the Ball State senior attempted to enter what he thought to be his friend’s house.
Four UPD officers responded to a burglary call around 3 a.m. at 1325 W. North St. Two more experienced officers were blocked by a 6-foot wooden fence and one searched the front of the building, so 24-year-old Duplain, who had been with UPD for seven months, entered the backyard alone.
There, he met McKinney, who had been drinking with his friends and later was found to have a .343 blood alcohol content.
According to police reports, he charged Duplain and would not yield to the officer’s orders, and Duplain felt threatened.
Four shots were fired.
Three hit the student in the chest.
One hit his head.
LOSING A BROTHER
Some of the first people to hear about his death were his fraternity members at Delta Chi.
Phil Juskevice, a Delta Chi brother, said McKinney was supposed to end up at his house the night he was killed. The next morning, Juskevice left work when he heard McKinney was at IU Health Ball Memorial Hospital and gathered with other Delta Chi members at his house to learn more as the situation progressed.
“You don’t know what the story was at that point when you initially hear it,” he said. “It’s a shock — your body goes numb when you hear something like that. You don’t know what happened, you don’t know who is to blame.”
Ben Brooks said he was away at his sister’s wedding when his roommate told him about the death.
“I just fell down and just started crying,” he said.
Nick Koesters, a Delta Chi one year below McKinney, was at home for a couple of family members’ birthdays when another brother called him asking what was wrong with McKinney.
“Right then, I knew something was wrong,” he said. “It still gives me shivers down my back.”
The fraternity members had lost someone important to them.
“A life was ended, but a relationship wasn’t,” Koesters said.
EVERY YEAR, EVERY DAY
Every year, McKinney’s mother, Lisa, said their family gathers together with his local friends. Many of his fraternity members call her to offer their support.
“There are a number of boys that call us every year on the anniversary of his death, that call us on his birthday,” she said. “For probably six or seven years, these boys would even come down here and support us and talk about Michael and share with us. They’ve been support for my family.”
His sister, Rosie, was an 18-year old freshman at IU when he died.
Her last conversation with her brother was two days prior to his death — on her birthday — to make plans to see him.
“I was like, ‘My friends are going to come up to Ball State and party with you,’” she said. “And he was like ‘absolutely not.’”
Much of the time after his death was a blur for her.
“It was a tragic event for all of us and it has left a giant void in all of our hearts,” she said. “If you talk to his friends, they will tell you the same thing. It has been hard to go on without him. We have great memories of him and we will never forget him.”
His mother said he was a fun loving guy.
“I miss him every day of my life,” she said.
His sister said his family wants students to remember her brother and be aware of the events that led to his death 10 years ago.
“We want the students to be aware of the situation, considering that they weren’t there when this all happened,” she said. “We want this to be fresh in their mind that this can happen, but to remember my brother, as well.”
Campbell said living at the fraternity house was “nonstop funny,” including one time when they got into a war with some other brothers.
“Mike’s retaliation is to go buy a boatload of crickets and unleash them in their room,” he said. “That’s the kind of thing he did.”
Campbell said McKinney also was always there to talk to, even when he first met him.
“It was truly an amazing amount of devotion from a man who had known me for a year,” he said.
Campbell said he left Muncie after McKinney’s death.
“I lost that person I could call and just dump on to with no regrets or retaliations,” he said. “It took me several years to really pull myself out of the funk I put myself in once he died. It sucks, I’ve thought about him every day since. I can’t not do it. I’ve had grandparents pass since then, and it was tragic and it hurts, but they weren’t ripped away like Mike was.”
He said his wife didn’t feel safe in Muncie after that, so they left.
“I use to love Muncie, which is really a shame,” he said. “I really liked going to Ball State, I liked that town and I had so many friends and wonderful people there. … I think our paths would have taken a very different path if he were still alive.”
McKinney’s sister said he was the type of person to spread the fun around.
“Everyone loved to be around him and was always smiling,” she said. “He was the teddy bear of the group.”
She said her brother was getting ready to graduate and had an interview for a future job set up.
“He was so excited about that,” she said. “He may not always have been the best at school, but he loved to have a good time.”
Juskevice said part of McKinney’s humor was to add comic relief to whatever situation he was in.
“[He was] always being the kind of guy who was the light of the room,” he said. “He and I just gravitated towards each other. We just became best friends.”
One of the last laughs McKinney gave Brooks was with his Halloween costume.
“I still have an email from him, it was sent three or four days before he died,” he said. “He’s dressed up as George Costanza for Halloween that year, cut his hair, had the glasses on and everything. You know if that tells you anything about McKinney.”
Koesters said the costume tells another side of who McKinney was.
“He ended up sporting that bald haircut for probably two weeks,” he said. “Most people are overly concerned with their image, their looks. He didn’t really worry about it.”
About a month ago, Juskevice sent an email to several Delta Chi members asking for pictures of McKinney to use in his wedding, including Campbell.
Campbell said someone beat him to it with a picture of McKinney in aviator sunglasses, a “Top Gun” hat and chewing tobacco in his mouth.
“You look at it, and you can’t but instantly fall into laughter because it is perfection,” he said. “If you knew that guy, especially with the chew in his mouth in that picture, it was just a spot of perfection.
“… Mike was funny. Mike was really funny.”