Morgan State University experienced an unprecedented shooting during the institution’s annual homecoming coronation celebration. Five people, four of which were students between the ages of 18-22, were shot non-fatally.
The annual coronation event, which takes place at the university’s Carl J. Murphy Fine Arts Center, draws an audience of thousands who witness the official crowning of Mr. and Miss Morgan State University.
This year’s ceremony began at 7 p.m. on the evening of Oct. 3 and at approximately 9:27 p.m. Morgan State University Police Department (MSUPD) responded to shots fired in the area of Thurgood Marshall Residence Hall and the Murphy Fine Arts Center.
Following the advice of the Baltimore Police Department (BPD), which is investigating the shooting, Morgan State issued a shelter-in-place order for the entire campus while law enforcement actively inspected what was initially believed to be an “active shooter” threat.
After finding no active threat, at around 12:25 a.m., MSUPD removed the shelter-in-place order and Morgan State released a campus-wide communication that lifted the directive and restored campus shuttle services.
A day after the shooting, Morgan State University President Dr. David K. Wilson announced that classes and many annual homecoming events would be canceled for the remainder of the week in an effort to preserve campus safety and to promote the well-being of students, administrators, staff and alumni.
“Regrettably, for the very first time in Morgan’s history all activities planned around Homecoming will be either canceled or postponed until the perpetrator(s) of this atrocity have been found and brought to justice,” Wilson said in a statement to the Morgan State community.
The list of canceled events included Morgan’s annual homecoming concert, pep rally and parade, as well as the university’s planned silent headphones party and all other on-campus events. The homecoming football game and the MSU 39th Annual Homecoming Gala were postponed.
Brandon Henry, a sophomore multimedia journalism major from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, at Morgan, heard about the incident from friends who returned from the cafeteria in the Thurgood Marshall residence hall where the shooting took place.
“I was downstairs in my friend’s room when we heard about the incident,” Henry said. “A lot of freshmen and some sophomore students reside in the Thurgood Marshall dorms, so it was awkward for them, especially because one of the bullets hit the building and one went through a window. It wasn’t really traumatizing but it had a lot of people on the edge.”
All of the canceled and postponed homecoming events usually draw a mix of alumni and current students, and several Morgan State alumni have weighed in on social media showing support for the institution’s decision to cancel homecoming activities.
After the university’s cancellation of classes and events, many students decided to leave campus for the remainder of the week.
“I was back home by Thursday morning and my roommate from my freshman year who lives in New Jersey left [as] his family came and got him. A lot of people went back home and some of them are still home,” Henry said.
Half of the HBCUs located in the state of Maryland experienced shootings during their respective homecomings, which happened to fall during the same week. In addition to the shooting that occurred at Morgan State in Baltimore, Bowie State University, another Maryland-based HBCU also experienced a shooting as two 19-year-olds who are not students received non-fatal gunshot wounds.
Solomon Brooks is a senior history major at Howard University and originally from Baltimore, Maryland, who thinks the incident at Morgan was tragic and indicative of issues with gun violence and crime in the city of Baltimore.
“We wouldn’t want that sort of violence to happen anywhere in our society, but we also have to contend with the idea that Morgan has an open campus located in East Baltimore,” Brooks said. “The event was tragic but also reflective of larger issues in the city.”
Dr. Jared Ball, a professor of Africana and media studies at Morgan State, believes there are several factors of importance regarding gun violence in Baltimore and gun-involved incidents at college campuses around the nation are microcosms of national issues.
“The first concern is the wellbeing of the students physically and mentally, as we grapple with the fact that there really are no safe spaces for Black people and increasingly anyone else in this country,” Ball said. “I’ve heard from a number of my own students, and I’m sure others have heard from other students, that there’s a good deal of concern and some trauma involved.”
Representative Kweisi Mfume (D-MD), a member of the Morgan State University Board of Regents who represents District 7 in Maryland, where the National Treasure and institution of higher learning is located, also called attention to the trend of increasing gun violence in the city via a statement released to the public.
“Because of the cowardly acts of potentially multiple individuals with guns, the lives of innocent young people at Morgan State University were gravely put at risk. It sickens all of us that no place is safe from this type of gun violence,” Mfume said.
Amidst Howard University’s upcoming homecoming and issues of crime that have occurred on or near Howard’s campus within the past year, Brooks shared his perspective on the increasing crime in Washington D.C. and safety precautions he would like to see Howard take prior to its homecoming festivities.
“The antagonistic relationship that Howard students and members of the HU community have with the local D.C. community needs to be addressed through outreach, community town halls and by ensuring that city police and campus security work cooperatively,” Brooks said.
Brooks mentioned that he commends the university for increasing cameras on campus but believes Howard stakeholders must also hold campus security and police accountable in order to foster a better community relationship.
“In the incident earlier this year where one Howard student got stabbed, campus security said the incident happened outside their jurisdiction, but that is contradictory due to the clear video evidence that showed it happened at Howard Plaza Towers,” Brooks said.
Mfume says that despite the normalization of multiple forms of violence in mainstream media and throughout American society, gun violence in Baltimore City should not be tolerated nor normalized.
“Mass shootings in Baltimore and this flagrant disregard for human life will never be allowed to become the norm. Be assured that the vicious criminal(s) responsible for this will be convicted, punished and removed from our streets. We remain Morgan proud and Baltimore strong,” Mfume said in his statement.
While suspects remain at-large BPD announced they are seeking the public’s help to identify the suspected individuals and offering a $9,000 reward for anonymous tips that leads to the arrest and charges against the perpetrators.
Copy edited by Alana Matthew