Few Morgan State University students ventured around campus early Wednesday morning following a shooting that left five people injured and threw homecoming festivities into chaos.
Gunfire erupted on the Northeast Baltimore campus shortly before 9:30 p.m. Tuesday, sending students running for cover. Five people, four of them students, were wounded with nonfatal injuries, police said.
Hours later, crews swept up broken glass from the pavement below Thurgood Marshall Hall. Students snapped photos of a shattered window on the dormitory’s seventh floor and a forgotten roll of police tape lay just inside the building’s vestibule.
With classes canceled as a result of the shooting, students and employees described the campus as being on edge. Some recalled the scramble for information during the night. Students sent frantic group text messages to check in on friends, took calls from concerned family members in other states and passed around links to police scanner audio so they could listen.
In a statement Wednesday morning, Morgan State University officials said they are rethinking the rest of homecoming activities this week and will inform the university of a decision later in the afternoon.
“This was such a senseless act of violence perpetrated on our community after what was a family-filled and fun evening of celebrating the pageantry and beauty of our students,” Morgan State President David Wilson said in a statement. “But Morgan is a strong family and we will march on with determination to keep moving on.”
The university installed metal detectors ahead of the start of the spring semester to screen “potential weapons” being brought into residence halls, school officials said.
The effort was partially due “to the rise in off-campus crime in Northeast Baltimore as well as the shooting incidents that occurred during Morgan Homecomings in consecutive years,” according to campus leaders.
Several students told The Baltimore Banner in February that the devices made them feel criminalized at the place where they are getting an education. They also questioned the equipment’s effectiveness.
In September, the university announced a clear bag policy for athletics events that was pitched as a way to enhance safety and expedite entry into venues, according to an article in The Spokesman, the student newspaper.
Students say they are still sorting through the events of Tuesday night.
Freshmen Lyric Evans and Maya Turner stood just outside the building around 8:30 a.m. and recalled hearing the shots ring out the night before. The students had been chatting at metal tables close to the dorm building and didn’t know what to make of the abrupt commotion.
Whatever was happening, it was close. They heard people laughing, then shell cases hitting the floor. People began to run and scream. That’s when Evans and Turner panicked.
Turner ran to her dorm building. Someone had just gotten in, so she didn’t need to pull her key card, she said. Evans went inside with her, and the door locked behind them.
They met up with their friends on the second floor and sat for a while. Police officers flooded through the hallways, Turner said.
When it felt a bit safer, the pair ran to Turner’s room. They locked the door and turned off the lights. Their parents were talking to them from their homes in Wisconsin, telling them to stay quiet and calm.
Turner’s mom did deep breathing exercises with her, helping stave off a panic attack. Evans said they could hear a “whole bunch of noise,” but didn’t know what to make of it.
On social media, rumors were rampant. Someone said the shooter was in their dorm building on the sixth floor, then the ninth. Another said someone had been killed. Police have said no one was killed in the shooting. Turner’s mom told her to stop looking at social media.
Everything happened too fast. They had gone to the fine arts center to see the coronation that night. They were looking forward to see Sexyy Red and Supahbadd at the Homecoming concert on Wednesday. Turner spent the night at Evans’ dorm, she said. She went back to pack, she said, then Evans went to grab her stuff and they got on a flight together to Wisconsin.
The two of them have been friends since 9th grade. They are in a group chat with 14 other freshmen. Most of them texted Turner and Evans saying they were also heading home. Turner’s parents don’t want her to come back to campus at all.
”It makes me sad because … I’m not going to be able to look at campus the same,” Evans said.
”We were talking about this coming back this morning,” Turner said. “I was saying I hope I don’t think about this every time I go to my room.”
Freshman Calissa Berry said some of her peers were afraid to leave their dorms Wednesday morning. Berry had been sitting under a tree with a friend near the athletic field when shots rang out. At first, the 18-year-old cybersecurity major thought she was hearing firecrackers. The gunfire was rapid, she said, with numerous shots fired back to back.
Berry worried she was about to be shot next and ran with other students for safety to nearby student housing at Clarence Blount Hall. Morgan staff told students clustered in the lobby to instead shelter upstairs in the dorm rooms. She waited with her peers for updates as the night went on. They put on the campy horror movie “Scream” to pass the time. Her parents back home in Greenbelt called to check on her.
Standing outside the Thurgood Marshall Dining Hall on Wednesday morning, Berry wondered if she should cut her time at Morgan State short.
”I kind of want to transfer now, but my parents already paid all this money for the term,” she said.
Classes were canceled and counseling services made available to students in the campus library and at Calvin and Tina Tyler Hall.
Michael “Malik” Rucker, a groundskeeper for Morgan State, drove through campus on a golf cart and saw gaggles of media and police in spaces usually bustling with students. He wondered if the public and parent reaction to the shooting was overblown, and worried what impact that would have on the university’s prospects with investors.
The university has received major donations in recent years from philanthropists like Calvin and Tina Tyler, as well as Mackenzie Scott.
”Morgan is a beautiful place,” Rucker said. “It’s bigger than that [the shooting].”