Morgan State University kicked off its homecoming week celebrations Tuesday evening by crowning a royal court, then crowds headed to the student center to continue the party.
That’s when the shooting started.
Gunfire erupted on the Northeast Baltimore campus shortly before 9:30 p.m., sending students running for cover. Five people, four of them students, were wounded, Police Commissioner Richard Worley said at a news conference.
The four men and one woman, ages 18 to 22, suffered injuries that are not life-threatening, Worley said.
In the chaos, panicked students posted on social media about hiding in their dorm rooms. Police cars rushed to the scene and officers kept bystanders away. A police helicopter could be heard instructing everyone to take shelter. Alarmed parents called their sons and daughters.
Worley said officers noticed gunfire had broken windows nearby and they feared more students could be hurt. Authorities issued a warning of a potential active shooter and instructed everyone to take cover and stay put. SWAT teams searched the campus and dorms room-by-room. They lifted the warning two hours later.
“We did not locate the suspect,” Worley said.
He declined to confirm posts online from City Council members that there had been multiple shooters. Councilman Ryan Dorsey had posted that he spoke to police and they believe three shooters opened fire on the crowd.
“We are still investigating and the details are very preliminary at this point,” Worley said.
Mayor Brandon Scott again blamed Congress for its failures to stem the flood of guns to the streets of Baltimore. Scott was admittedly angry.
“My anger is with the people that pulled the trigger,” he said. “We’re going to work alongside Morgan State and everyone else to track down these people and hold them accountable.”
The shooting mars another traditional celebration at Morgan State, the historically Black university founded in 1867. University President David Wilson appeared beside Worley and said the crowning of Mister and Miss Morgan State had been a beautiful evening. The Murphy Fine Arts Center had been filled to capacity. Parents came from across Maryland and beyond to celebrate their sons and daughters.
“This is a very tragic incident on the campus of the national treasure, Morgan State University,” Wilson said. “By no means will it define who we are as a university.”
Saying he understood that the university community was “traumatized” by the incident, Wilson canceled classes Wednesday and said he was calling an emergency meeting with campus police and administrators to review the remaining events of homecoming week. He also said counseling would be provided to students.
“Morgan State University will not be deterred, we will move forward. We will continue our momentum here at Morgan. But it is indeed a very, very unfortunate situation that would have us standing here tonight talking about students being injured and their parents actually suffering,” Wilson said. “My son came to Morgan, I know what it’s like to have a student off at college.”
Don Myrie, a sophomore at Morgan, said he was heading to the coronation party in Morgan’s student center when he heard students outside yelling and running and saw cars speed away. He urged others in the student center to move away from areas with lots of windows and head to the ballroom.
For the next two hours, Myrie, 20 and about two dozen other students huddled in the ballroom while the campus was on lockdown.
“Initially, we played music to try to keep ourselves sane,” he said. “But eventually they turned the music off because the crowd wasn’t feeling it.”
The students watched helicopters circling overhead and kept a close eye on the Citizen app and a private Morgan social network to try to determine where the shooter or shooters were, Myrie said.
Myrie shared on X, formerly known as Twitter, a video his friend had recorded of police officers in tactical gear pointing their weapons at a group of students in the Thurgood Marshall Hall dormitory and demanding that they lift up their shirts.
“We gotta check and make sure,” one officer said. “Lift the shirts up. Turn around.”
Myrie, who works full-time as well as being a full-time student, said he was exhausted after the disturbing evening.
“I literally told my friends I didn’t wanna go out, but they dragged me out anyway,” he said.
Homecoming has long had a special meaning for alumni and students of Morgan State, with many likening it to a family reunion at the HBCU. The campus turns into a sea of orange and blue as the university celebrates prominent graduates and current students while raising money. In recent years, however, the celebrations have also brought trouble.
In October last year, a student was shot during an unsanctioned homecoming party outside the university’s student center. And in October 2021, a student was shot during a campus fight amid the homecoming celebrations.
The Tuesday night shooting was reported to have occurred in the 1700 block of Argonne Drive, the address of a student dormitory and adjacent to the Northeastern District police station. Worley said campus and city police responded within minutes to the shooting.
Glenmore Blackwell waited at the edge of campus on Argonne Drive as his son, senior London Blackwell, was locked down in the Murphy center with other students who had gathered for the ceremony. A prayer service was about to begin when the students were told to stay put.
Blackwell spoke to his son, whom he said was calm and composed and trying to reassure other students. Two of his other older children were also at the ceremony, but left just before the lockdown. ”They’re all safe,” he said.
A student from Coppin State University, who did not want to be identified, waited near the scene for word from friends who live on the campus. He said his friends told him a SWAT team was moving through their dorm. Students were told to remain in their rooms.
He said Coppin’s royal court was also on campus and locked down in the fine arts building along with Morgan’s royal court.
Baltimore Police asked student family members to avoid the area and report to the Safeway parking lot at 4401 Harford Road for information.
Laura, an off-duty police lieutenant from Philadelphia who did not want to provide her full name, was on her way back to that city when she started getting alerts about a shooting at Morgan State University. She turned around and headed back to Baltimore after her daughter, a freshman, called and asked to be picked up.
“When you got the motivation, you can get here quick,” she said.
Her daughter was in her dorm at the time of the shooting and was hiding in the bathroom with roommates. The police searched her dorm, as well. Laura said she headed to the Safeway parking lot and planned to wait for directions from police because she knows, as a member of law enforcement, what it feels like to be out in emergency situations and not have people listen.
She spoke by phone with family members who had helped drop off her daughter at the beginning of the semester and planned to remain there until she received word that the students had been released.
“As long as she’s fine, I’m cool,” Laura said.
Tony Jones was alarmed when he first learned of the active shooter situation. His daughter, Kelsi, is a sophomore and was safe.
A well-known NBA writer for The Athletic, Jones did not want people to fear for his family.
”There are a lot of people who know my daughter goes to Morgan State, I wanted to make sure that people knew that she was okay. But I also wanted to make sure that people saw this,” Jones said. ”This came close to me and my family in that, you know. And I wanted to send a prayer to those at Morgan State University and those families who may be affected by this directly.”
Shortly before 10:30 p.m., Morgan State University posted a warning on X about shots fired on the campus.
“Please stay clear of the area surrounding Thurgood Marshall Hall and the Murphy Fine Arts Center and shelter in place,” the university wrote.
The federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the FBI each sent personnel to the scene to assist Baltimore Police.
Gov. Wes Moore thanked police and the emergency crews that arrived at the campus.
He wrote online, “We are grateful for the heroic efforts of the first responders who rushed to the scene and are actively working to ensure safety.”
A photo caption has been updated to clarify that a student was carrying a cornet.
Reporters Julie Scharper, Penelope Blackwell, Brenna Smith, Ben Conarck, Liz Bowie, Hallie Miller, Dylan Segelbaum, Kaitlin Newman, Cody Boteler, Zuri Berry, Tramon Lucas and David Lance contributed.