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WEATHER ALERT: Icy conditions in the forecast.

New details emerge in University of Illinois police investigation of Akul Dhawan’s death, including alcohol consumption and police timeline

Akul Dhawan (right) with his sister, father and mother. Dhawan, 18, was found dead on the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign campus on Saturday, Jan. 20.

University of Illinois police say they searched immediately for Akul Dhawan, the student who died on Saturday, January 20 during subzero temperatures.

The University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign Police Department on Wednesday released their timeline and more details on Dhawan’s death.

“It breaks my heart to read the press release. Akul was found less than 300 feet away from Busey-Evans Hall. How come they were not able to find him?” said Akul’s father, Ish Dhawan, by email. 

“His life could have been saved. This is a heartbreaking tragedy and the UI police is fully responsible and accountable for this negligence.”

Dhawan’s parents have been asking for details. They filed a complaint last week against UIPD for negligence, since the 18-year-old was found dead a block away from his last known location. 

UIPD states they acted immediately based on the information available at the time, although some of that information was later found to be inaccurate.

The release says Dhawan’s friend reported that he was missing around 1:30 AM that Saturday morning and said his last location as Busey-Evans Residence Hall. The dorm is a block away from his actual last known location, Canopy Club. By 2 AM, a police officer had searched around Busey Evans, drove at a walking pace behind Nevada Street and traced Dhawan’s possible path to his own dorm on the other side of the Main Quad.

Dhawan was found nine hours later behind a building on Nevada Street by an unrelated university employee. Police say emergency personnel tried to resuscitate him for nine minutes before calling the coroner.

Police also say that their investigation after his death found the 18-year-old drank alcohol with friends that evening. His friends managed to enter Canopy Club around 11:30 PM, but he was denied entry. Police say he declined two rideshares, while Canopy Club staff and someone passing by tried to convince him to take the rideshares. Police say the friend who reported Dhawan as missing had been at Canopy Club with him and didn’t disclose that part.

UIPD spokesperson Pat Wade declined a request for an interview. 

This story was updated at 5:50 PM on January 31 with a statement from Ish Dhawan.

Emily Hays

Emily Hays

Emily Hays started at WILL in October 2021 after three-plus years in local newsrooms in Virginia and Connecticut. She has won state awards for her housing coverage at Charlottesville Tomorrow and her education reporting at the New Haven Independent. Emily graduated from Yale University where she majored in History and South Asian Studies.

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