By Chris Kieffer/NEMS Daily Journal
Mississippi State University students said they felt safe on Monday, two days after a student was shot to death in a dormitory on campus.
“I think the morale of campus is fine,” said Philip Matthews, a senior biological sciences major from Tupelo. “I think it was scary initially, getting a message and reading that a student was deceased. It takes some time to sink in that someone has passed away in a tragic way.
“Hearing it was an isolated event really put everyone at ease.”
Police made one arrest Monday in connection with the death of John Sanderson, 21, a first-semester transfer student from Madison who was killed Saturday night shortly before 10 p.m. inside Evans Hall dormitory.
Mason Perry Jones, 21, of Jackson was arrested in Memphis on Sunday by the U.S. Marshal’s Fugitive Task Force on an unrelated warrant. He was charged with capital murder by MSU Police on Monday.
Two other suspects remain at large, and circumstances surrounding the shooting are still being investigated.
According to Bill Kibler, vice president of student affairs, all of the parties involved in the shooting were guests of a resident at Evans Hall. Sanderson lived in another dormitory.
“It is a tragedy,” said junior Hannah Rogers of Ocean Springs, the editor of the Reflector student newspaper. “It is a significant point in our university’s history.”
Students said they learned of the incident through a text message sent through the university’s Maroon Alert system. Anna Catherine Holmes, a freshman kinesiology major from Tupelo, was in her dorm on the other end of campus when she got the news.
“I figured Evans is all the way across campus, but this shooter could have gotten across campus pretty quickly,” she said. “It was an initial shock.”
For a brief period of time, it wasn’t clear whether the incident would spread. Several students said they thought of the 2007 shooting at Virginia Tech University, that killed 33 people.
“You think automatically when you hear something like that, Virginia Tech pops in your mind,” Matthews said. “Then we heard it was an isolated incident and they had descriptions of the car and suspects, and it made us a lot more at ease. The cops did a great job defusing the situation and not letting it get out of hand.”
Several parents of Mississippi State students also said they feel their children are safe.
“Obviously, a lot of details have not come out yet because of the investigation, and I totally respect that,” said Tupelo’s Jerilynn Billingsley, who has two daughters at MSU, a senior and a freshman. “It seems to me, from my point-of-view, an isolated incident. I feel extreme sadness for this family.”
Added Lori Clayton of Tupelo, whose son Reed is a sophomore on the MSU basketball team:
“Like anyone, I was totally shocked anything like that could happen. My husband and I both went to Mississippi State. I was shocked, but I was impressed by how the school handled it. It seemed like they did all the right things.”