Woman dead at North Lawrence campsite; Times reporter ordered to leave

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Post last updated at 11:35 p.m. Tuesday, March 21:

Camp residents found a woman dead in her tent at the North Lawrence campsite for people experiencing homelessness Tuesday night.


Police responded to their 911 call and pronounced her dead at the scene. Some camp residents had thought the woman was staying at an unofficial camp somewhere else, and hadn’t checked on her. City workers paid to monitor the site had not checked on her, either, residents said. They believed she may have been dead for a couple of days.

Two residents found her while offering food to the people at the support site. Residents did not know how the woman had died, but said that she was known to have seizures. Some worried that she’d overdosed. 

“I heard someone crying, screaming, and I was like, ‘Something’s wrong,’” said resident Billy Lindaman.

Camp resident Vance Swallow worried that she’d gotten too cold. 

“I could have given her a sleeping bag or a blanket, but (the city) cut me off because they’re here 24/7,” he said. 

City workers have been stationed at the campsite with relative consistency for the last week or so, residents said, but they have not connected with campers well enough to know when someone has died. 

Laura McCabe, spokesperson for the Lawrence Police Department, said in an email that “First responders found the 36-year-old female unresponsive inside a tent, beyond life-saving measures. Investigators are currently on scene to determine if there are any indications that a crime occurred. There are no immediate signs of foul play.”

While a reporter with The Lawrence Times was at the scene, two Lawrence Community Shelter workers said they had no comment on how long the woman had been dead.

After we had talked to people at the site for a few minutes, both workers asked the reporter to leave for “creating a disturbance.” 

“I am saying you’re not welcome here,” one of the workers said. But residents had called the reporter and asked her to come to the camp.

Lawrence police Officer Shawn Daubert ordered the reporter to leave the camp under the order of Cicely Thornton, the city’s homeless programs project specialist, he said.


The camp is located on property that is owned by the city.

Sgt. Drew Fennelly wrote in an email Tuesday night after this article was first published, “In reference to the Lawrence Times Facebook post and article, to be clear, the police did not ‘force’ Chansi to leave, and saying Officer Daubert did so is inaccurate. We responded to a request by City staff to have multiple persons moved to the edge of the property of an active death scene, which is what was requested of those that were not staying at the camp. We would ask that the post and article be corrected to reflect accurate information.” (Click here for an update.)

The reporter felt that she was going to be arrested if she did not follow Daubert’s order to leave.

The woman’s death is at least the third at the campsite. Susan Ford, 53, died in her tent in late November. Tony Cipollaro, 26, died there in late December.

Lawrence activist Michael Eravi, who runs the YouTube channel Lawrence Accountability, said he was permanently trespassed from the site Tuesday night.

Update — Wednesday, March 22:

Lawrence Accountability

A Lawrence Times reporter was ordered to leave the city campsite for unhoused people. ‘That’s a problem,’ First Amendment attorney says

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Lawrence Times reporter Chansi Long was targeted by city staff and ordered by police to leave the North Lawrence campsite for people experiencing homelessness Tuesday night while other members of the public were allowed to remain. “That’s a problem,” a local First Amendment expert said.

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Chansi Long (she/her) reported for The Lawrence Times from July 2022 through August 2023. Read more of her work for the Times here.

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