As a Morgan State University graduate with the spring class of 2023, I’ve asked myself whether the gun violence that occurred on or near campus in recent years ruined my student experience. I can’t truthfully say it did. I still successfully pursued my studies, made friends, made professional connections, found my place in the community and followed my passion in starting a journalism career.
Walking across the stage on graduation day, I held up my diploma, truly proud to have chosen Morgan State. That feeling hasn’t changed.
At the same time, my years at the university left me with two names stuck in the back of my head because of what happened in 2019, when I enrolled. Kevon Dix and Manuel Luis Jr. are names I’ll always remember.
Dix was only 21 when he was found dead in 2019 with multiple gunshot wounds, just off campus in the 3400 block of Mary Avenue. He was a gifted singer and member of the Morgan State Choir with aspirations of starring on Broadway. According to Baltimore Police, he was victimized in a tragic case of mistaken identity. His killer has never been found.
Luis was on his way to his parents’ house when he was fatally shot during a failed robbery attempt near Morgan View Apartments. This took place only two months after Dix’s death. Again, no suspects have been identified.
Whether it was at the last homecoming concert I attended or while turning the tassel on my graduation cap, I thought about those students who chose the same path as me but never reached their destination due to senseless violence. While fleeting, those thoughts have made some of my once-in-a-lifetime college moments bittersweet.
Students still at Morgan realize that, like me, they’ll have lasting memories of campus shootings and the people who carried them out or were victimized.
For Cameron Kelly, a shooting incident on Morgan State University’s campus during homecoming this year reminded him of circumstances from 2022 that hit particularly close to home. For the 2021 fall and spring semesters, Kelly, a communications major, roomed with Chase Marco Wilson at the Marble Hall Gardens apartments. At the time Kelly knew Wilson as a temporary roommate, and he became a familiar face on campus.
Now, Wilson is mainly recalled on campus as a murderer. In July, he was convicted of second-degree murder in the killing of Julian Fruh, who had just celebrated his 19th birthday when he was shot in the 4400 block of Marble Hall Road in August 2022. The young security guard was finishing his usual rounds along the apartment complex with a co-worker when he was approached and shot. Fruh died of a gunshot wound to the head at the Johns Hopkins Hospital.
The shooting incidents have a lasting impact on students and their mindset about campus life, Kelly said. “Yeah, it brings a horrible outlook, because we do so many great things,” he said.
The impact goes beyond the personal tragedy of a shooting, he explained. The incidents are experienced as reflections on the university and on the community of historically Black colleges and universities and those who have connections to them.
“But those 10 minutes of us cutting up, it’s really bad. It’s not just a little hiccup. Nah, we’re airing our whole homecoming out. It’s complicated.”
Morgan is a university with plenty to boast about, but if the issue of on-campus and residential crime isn’t addressed aggressively, can it ever truly call itself a top-of-the-line institution?
“Would I send my kid here? I would say yeah, because Morgan State is going to have a better future than what they have now,” Kelly said. “I think it’s completely different than what we’ll see 10 years, 15 years from now.”
For Morgan State, 2023 homecoming was a chance to celebrate 156 years of illustrious history, its students’ past achievements and all achievements to come. The year marked many accomplishments for Morgan, including fellowships from the White House HBCU Initiative, a Maternal and Child Health Bureau Research Award from the federal government, and a historically large enrollment of more than 9,000 students in the fall.
Festivities such as the homecoming football game were meant to cap the year and bring the ever-growing student body and alumni together. Perhaps even more important, this year was an opportunity to break a violent cycle. Sadly, those activities never came to fruition.
In October 2022, a 20-year-old man was struck down in front of the university’s student center during an impromptu party. The previous year, homecoming ended with an 18-year-old being hospitalized after a shooting on Montebello Terrace.
This year’s homecoming ended abruptly after two gunmen fired shots around Thurgood Marshall Residence Hall and the Murphy Fine Arts Center the night of Oct. 3, police said. Police Commissioner Richard Worley said the shooting began after a fight broke out between two groups of people. Five unintended targets were struck — one woman and four men, all of whom are expected to make a full recovery.
One moment, homecoming celebrants were relaxing with friends and enjoying themselves as Mr. and Miss Morgan State were crowned. Seconds later, the packed campus turned into confusion and chaos as students, parents, faculty and alumni received an emergency email relaying news of the shooting and issuing a stay-in-place order. Some huddled underneath tables; others went to find loved ones or simply didn’t know how to react. To make the situation worse, the gunmen were on the loose and would be for quite some time.
In addition to the dire situation on campus, students inside dorms were further traumatized when SWAT teams stormed Thurgood Marshall Hall in search of the active shooters. Going door to door, heavily armed officers approached students and searched the premises. Although the aim was to protect students, our shocked reactions were evident.
“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 at the time. “But Morgan is a strong family and we will march on with determination to keep moving on.”
Despite the president’s encouraging words, we know that moving on will be much easier said than done. For Morgan’s student body, this is a repeat event and a hard pill to swallow, especially for out-of-state students who left family behind and no longer have that immediate in-person support.
“I’m a little scared for my next homecoming, I’ll be honest. It’s likely to happen again. I’m considering if I want to go at all,” sophomore Tyrique Medlin told me. “I don’t want history to repeat itself.”
Dreema Carrington is a recent graduate of Morgan State University and a journalist who lives and works in Baltimore.