NIU meteorology alumnus shot in December returns to work; search for shooter continues

By Keith Hernandez

After a month-long recovery from a shooting, an alumnus resumed his job Monday morning at a Waco, Texas, TV station, where his coworkers had planned a surprise.

“All of my coworkers … during a commercial break, they all pulled out these yellow shirts and they had the red Superman emblem on them and on the back of the shirt, it said ‘Crawford Strong,’ and they all put them on and wore them for that segment,” said meteorology alumnus Patrick Crawford. “We’re a real tight-knit group on the morning show; I consider them family.”

Crawford, who graduated from NIU with a bachelor’s of science in meteorology, was shot three times Dec. 17 outside his place of work at KCEN-TV. When he returned to work Monday, his coworkers were unaware he was wearing a Superman shirt of his own.

“It was my first day back and it kind of made me feel comfortable wearing that underneath my dress shirt that I was wearing that morning,” Crawford said. “It was just good to kind of get out of the house and try to get back to normalcy.”


On the morning of the shooting, Heather Brinkmann, Crawford’s wife, was working in the studio while Crawford was on his way out. Brinkmann is a Web manager for KCEN-TV and also an NIU alumnus.

“We hear these loud pops and we just all looked at each other like, ‘Oh my goodness, what was that? That sounded like gunshots,’” Brinkmann said. “Maybe in about 10 minutes, we heard on the police scanner, ‘Send the police to KCEN studios: active shooter.’ And at that moment, we all had a little bit of a panic and it kind of brought back memories from when I was on campus during the NIU shootings.”

Brinkmann tried to contact her husband, but he wouldn’t respond to her calls or text messages.

“All the employees of KCEN were in one room and one of the police officers came by and was like, ‘Is there a Patrick Crawford that works here?’ and immediately I sunk to the ground,” Brinkmann said. “Later, I was told that he was OK … but that whole time it was just one of those things where it’s like, ‘Oh my gosh, am I ever going to talk to him again? … What was the last thing I said to him? Did I tell him I loved him enough that day?’”

Crawford doesn’t know why he was the target of the shooting, nor does he know if he was simply at the wrong place at the wrong time. What he said he knows for sure is the man who shot him wanted him dead and his recovery changed his outlook on life.

“The fact that I was able to survive and not die definitely makes me appreciate life even more and every second that I’m breathing,” Crawford said.

The investigation into Crawford’s shooting continues, though a suspect has not been identified, he said.