Anniversary of Bowie State Stabbing Shines Spotlight on U.S. Campus Violence

Published on September 15th, 2012

Alexis Simpson, left, faces trial this fall in the stabbing death of Dominique Frazier at Bowie State University.

 

Dominique Frazier would have been celebrating her 20th birthday next Tuesday, but she died following a stabbing in her dormitory a year ago on Sept. 15. In her memory, Bowie State University will hold a memorial on Monday and a candlelight vigil on Tuesday.

The anniversary of Frazier’s death this weekend is just one reminder of those rare moments when things can go terribly wrong at college. Many students returned to campus this fall with a heightened concern about campus safety — and even about some of their classmates — after the fatal barrage of gunfire during a showing of “Dark Knight Rises,” allegedly by a former graduate student at the University of Colorado in Denver. On Wednesday, a gunman fired a shot in the student union of Morgan State University. The Baltimore campus was already reeling after a student there was charged with attempted murder and first-degree murder for two incidents in May. (See below.)

“Before the shooting, I felt fairly safe on campus, but now I would like to see more police presence and cameras,” said Zuri Abramson, a junior majoring in nursing at Morgan State.

Witnesses said they heard an argument and then a gunshot, which left a man in critical, but stable condition at Johns Hopkins Hospital. Baltimore police have not released the identity of the victim or the gunman, who remains at large. Neither man attends Morgan State, but it seems as if they knew each other before the incident. The investigation is ongoing, both at the university and in the surrounding Baltimore area.

Abramson says she was in her apartment across from campus at the time of the shooting. A friend who had received a text alert from the university warning her not to go on campus called Abramson. This warning came at the right time, as the shooting happened around 4:50 p.m. and Abramson’s class had been scheduled to start at 5:30 p.m.

Morgan State cancelled classes on Wednesday, but resumed them the next day. However, Abramson said that she was reluctant to go to class Thursday morning, and that campus was very empty.

Maya Rhodan/Howard University News Service
A tribute to Dominique Frazier at last year’s homecoming game.

‘Living in a Shared Space’

At Bowie State, Dominique Frazier was stabbed in the privacy of her dormitory following an altercation. One of her roommates, Alexis Simpson was charged with first-degree murder and possession of a dangerous weapon. Simpson is free on a $250,000 bond while she awaits trial on Nov. 14 in Prince George’s County Circuit Court, according to a spokesman for the State’s Attorney office.

“Being that I was once a freshman living with a roommate, I understand the frustration and arguments that come along with living in a shared space,” said Valencia Springer, a junior at Virginia Union University in Petersburg, Va. “I honestly don’t think the problem should have escalated to that level. I definitely wasn’t worth that young girl’s life.”

Just weeks after the Bowie State incident, Kierstyn Jeffries, a pre-med student at Howard University, faced assault charges following an altercation with her suitemate, pre-law student Caije Murphy.

The altercation reportedly escalated from an argument between the two students over Jeffries’ use of Murphy’s dishes that she got from her mother. Jeffries is accused of throwing boiling hot water on Murphy. When asked for an update, Jeffries and her attorney, Kelli Neptune, said “no comment.” Murphy could not be reached.

“Colleges and universities should definitely make their students feel comfortable coming to them if there is ever an issue, so it can be resolved,” Springer said. “A roommate switch, room swap, counseling sessions or even meetings with the RA’s are all possible options to prevent future issues.”

One Love Foundation
Yeardley Love’s memory lives on through the One Love Foundation, which is participating in the Baltimore Marathon on Oct. 13.

Violence Re-Visits Virginia Tech

Violent issues have plagued a variety of campuses for a variety of reasons, most notably Virginia Tech, where English major Seung-Hui Cho killed 32 people and wounded 17 others before taking his own life in 2007.

Four years later, just before final exams in December 2011, Ross Truett Ashley, a former student from Radford University and the University of Virginia-Wise, gunned down a Virginia Tech police officer during a traffic stop and shot himself a short time later in a campus parking lot.

In August, a jury convicted former University of Virginia lacrosse player George Huguely to 23 years in prison for the murder of his girlfriend, UVA lacrosse player Yeardley Love. Love’s mother is suing UVA’s lacrosse coaches over her daughter’s death in May 2010. The $30 million wrongful death suit implies that the coaches overlooked Huguely’s menacing behavior, because was a star player on UVA’s nationally ranked lacrosse team.

Similarly, a six-month study on crime and football players by Sports Illustrated and CBS in 2011 reinforced perceptions that coaches overlook questionable backgrounds and behavior of athletes.

Visions of Violence

Here’s a sampling of other violent incidents on campuses around the country, plus an interactive timeline below:

  • Rutgers University: In March, Dharun Ravi was found guilty on 15 counts that included hate crime and invasion of privacy after recording a homosexual relationship involving his roommate and streaming it on the Internet. His roommate, Tyler Clementi, later committed suicide in September 2010. Ravi was not charged in his death.
  • Florida A&M University: The parents of drum major Robert Champion filed a wrongful death suit against FAMU after their son died following hazing rituals. FAMU will suspend classes for an anti-hazing town hall from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday in the Alfred Lawson Multipurpose Center and Teaching Gymnasium.
  • Yale University: Last summer, lab technician Raymond Clark was sentenced to 44 years in the disappearance and death of graduate pharmacology student Annie Le. The student’s body was found behind a wall in the Yale Animal Research Center on her wedding day in September 2009.
  • Morgan State University: Alexander Kinua faces charges in two separate cases. He’s scheduled for a hearing on Wednesday and trial on Oct. 23 on attempted murder and assault charges stemming from an attack on former student Joshua Ceasar with a baseball bat in May. Kinua was also charged with first-degree murder in another case that occurred a few days later.
  • Frostburg State University: Shanee Liggins was charged with first-degree murder, first and second-degree assault and reckless endangerment last November following an argument that resulting in the stabbing death of Kortneigh McCoy. Liggin’s trial is scheduled for early December, according to court documents.

Like many students, Valencia Springer laments the loss of life among her peers, especially the death of Dominique Frazier.

There should definitely be some type of memorial for this student,” Springer said. “She should have some type of shrine on campus to keep her spirit present. This would remind students of this young girls’ life, and hopefully it will prevent similar situations like this.“

Additional reporting by Jeremy Clayton and Donavon Murphy for 101 Magazine and the Howard University News Service. Interactive timeline below by Mykalee McGowan.

How do you feel about campus violence? Tell us in the comments section below.

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