Student fatally shot on MSU campus
Published: Sunday, March 25, 2012
Updated: Sunday, March 25, 2012 14:03
A first semester transfer student was fatally shot multiple times Saturday night in a first floor Evans Hall residence room on Mississippi State University's campus and died later.
John Sanderson, 21, of Madison was found outside the residence hall room and was transported to OCH Regional Medical Center where the doctors worked with him for around 40 minutes before he was pronounced dead at 11:03 p.m., Bill Kibler, vice president of student affairs, said.
The investigation has gained two leads. A gun has been found on campus and a person of interest has been identified. Kibler said anyone with information that involves an African American male seeking a ride, particularly one to Jackson, should contact authorities.
“Our goal is obviously to identify the suspects and bring them into custody immediately so that we can put all of this together,” Kibler said.
Suspects have been identified as three black males who fled Evans Hall in a late model blue Crown Victoria. Maridith Geuder, university spokesperson, said at this time the suspects are not believed to be students.
Kibler said there were witnesses to the event that helped determine that the incident was isolated.
“The perpetrators fled not only the scene, but campus, and probably the city of Starkville immediately,” he said.
The MSU Police Department was notified of an incident at Evans Hall at 9:54 p.m. The police arrived within one minute of receiving the emergency call. Sanderson was found with serious injuries, which at the time could not be determined whether he had been stabbed or shot.
The investigation began immediately after the welfare of the victim was taken care of, Kibler said. Campus was placed on alert and patrols on campus — including stepping up foot patrols in residence halls — increased significantly.
The suspects are still at large, but the campus is not under an emergency alert at this time.
Kibler said officials chose to release the first Maroon Alert text message in order to alert the campus of a crime, despite not knowing if it was a shooting or a stabbing for safety reasons.
“We err on the side of safety always,” he said. “We knew those who had performed this act had not yet been identified, so we needed to send that information out to the campus.”
Twenty-four students in Evans Hall have been asked to be relocated to enhance and protect the integrity of the investigation.
The motivation, along with surveillance video tapes from Evans Hall, are part of the investigation and have not been released to the public at this time.
The investigation is ongoing, being led by the university police with assistance from the Starkville Police Department, the Oktibbeha County Sheriff's Office and the Mississippi Highway Patrol.
MSU President Mark Keenum said the campus is known as a safe place and said he wants to assure students, parents, faculty and staff it continues to be safe.
“This is the first time in our school's history that such a tragic incident has occurred involving a student being shot on our campus,” he said.
He said the campus goes to great lengths to promote safety.
“Our Bulldog family is saddened by this event and the loss of one of our students. Our hearts go out to John Sanderson's family and friends and they will continue to be in our prayers,” he said. “Our top priority is the safety and well-being of our campus and all who inhabit it.”
Kibler said residence halls have three levels of card-access security during the night — one needs a student ID card to access the building, wing, then room. Visitors can be escorted into residence halls by students who live there and surveillance video cameras are mounted at entrances. He said there is no reason to believe there was breech of security during the incident.
Kibler said there have been no reports that any of the Maroon Alerts failed.
“We monitor that system carefully. We have the exact times when the button was pushed to send those. We send out tens of thousands, so there may have been a several minute gap. There were not reports of a systematic failure,” he said.
The Reflector will continue to update more information as it becomes available.