By The Associated Press
STARKVILLE — Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant on Sunday expressed his sorrow at the shooting deaths of two college students in the state over the weekend.
Late Saturday, 21-year-old John Sanderson of Madison, Miss., was shot to death in a Mississippi State University dormitory, though the killing appears to be isolated, according to university officials.
Early Sunday, a 19-year-old freshman at Jackson State University died from being shot in the face and killed at an off-campus apartment pool party in Jackson. Police identified the victim as Nolan Ryan Henderson III of Atlanta.
Bryant said in a statement that he and his wife Deborah were “saddened to learn that Mississippi lost two college students this weekend.” He said he’s spoken with university leaders and instructed the state public safety commissioner to assist in the investigations.
“Those perpetuating these crimes will be apprehended and held accountable,” he said. “Mississippi does not take these instances lightly, and rest assured, we will continue to provide a safe learning environment for students at all our Mississippi College and University campuses.”
At Mississippi State, university president Mark Keenum said in a statement on the school’s website Sunday that the killing of Sanderson was the first time a student had been shot on the campus. Keenum said officials could reveal few other details because of the ongoing investigation.
University spokeswoman Maridith Geuder said police received a call about the shooting at Evans Hall around 10 p.m. Saturday. Police were on the scene within a minute. Sanderson was taken to Oktibbeha County Hospital, where he died.
Three male suspects fled the building in a blue Crown Victoria, officials said. No arrests had been made Sunday.
Shortly after the shooting, the university began sending a series of text message alerts to students. Police officers stepped up patrols to make sure the campus was safe, Keenum said.
The four-story Evans Hall holds about 300 male students and is located on the north side of campus. The campus of about 20,000 students is located in a rural area in the northeastern part of the state, about 125 miles northeast of Jackson.
The school’s website says the campus is located in a low-crime area, and that emergencies are rare.
Within a few hours, Jackson police say a freshman at Jackson State University was killed.
Police spokeswoman Colendula Green said officers early Sunday found the body of Henderson lying on a walkway inside the Palisades Apartments.
Henderson reportedly lived on campus but was attending a pool party at the apartment complex. He was shot one time.
Green said Sunday evening that details of what happened were sketchy and that police did not have a motive or suspect. JSU students had planned a vigil for Sunday evening.
Hank Bounds, the state’s commissioner of higher education, said in a statement Sunday that both deaths were “senseless tragedies and our sympathies go out to each of their families.”
But Bounds stressed that university campuses are “very safe, with many precautions taken and systems in place to protect students.” He praised Mississippi State for its “swift action and communication to students and the university community.”
The commissioner said both universities have counseling centers and other resources available to assist students deal with the tragedies.