UPDATE: Mississippi State officials reassure public campus is safe after fatal shooting

By Daily Journal, wire reports






STARKVILLE – Mississippi State officials moved quickly to reassure the public about the safety of the school’s campus after a student was shot to death in a dormitory late Saturday.
It was said to be the first on-campus shooting death in school history.
John Sanderson, 21, of Madison, was pronounced dead Saturday night after treatment at Oktibbeha County Hospital. He was shot inside Evans Hall shortly before 10 p.m, and declared dead at about 11:03 p.m.
Described as a first-semester transfer, Sanderson was shot multiple times outside a dorm room.
Bill Kibler, vice president of student affairs, said “a person of interest” had been identified and that a gun was recovered on campus after the shooting.
Three black males were seen fleeing from the building, driving away in a blue Crown Victoria. School officials said the three were not thought to be current MSU students.
The men still were being sought on Sunday, with reports that they may have been headed to the Jackson area.
“This is the first time in our school’s history that such a tragic incident has occurred, involving a student being shot on campus,” University president Mark Keenum said Sunday in a statement posted on the school’s website. He and other school officials appeared at a 10 a.m. news conference to discuss the incident.
“Our campus is known as a safe place, and I want to assure students, parents, faculty and staff that it continues to be safe,” Keenum said. “We have had no indication that there is a danger to others and we believe this was an isolated incident.”
A moment of silence for Sanderson was observed Sunday afternoon before the start of the Mississippi State-Arkansas baseball game.
Police received a call about the shooting at Evans Hall at 9:54 p.m. Saturday. “The MSU Police Department was on the scene within one minute of receiving the emergency call,” Keenum said.
Shortly after the shooting – at 10:33 p.m. – the university sent the first in a series of text message alerts to students. Police officers also stepped up patrols to make sure the campus was safe, Keenum said.
The four-story Evans Hall, a suite-style dorm for male freshmen and underclassmen, holds about 300 residents and is located on the north side of campus.
The other students on the first floor, where the shooting occurred, have been relocated to other dorms, Kibler said.


Statement by Governor Phil Bryant on the death of two Mississippi College Students.

JACKSON – Gov. Phil Bryant issued the following statement regarding the deaths of two college students in Mississippi.

“Deborah and I were saddened to learn that Mississippi lost two college students this weekend. I have spoken today with President Meyers, President Keenum and Institutions of Higher Learning Commissioner Bounds. I instructed Department of Public Safety Commissioner Albert Santa Cruz to provide assistance to all law enforcement entities involved. Those perpetuating these crimes will be apprehended and held accountable. 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.”


Statement from IHL Commissioner on recent tragedies:

“The unfulfilled promise of a young person’s life cut short is always heartbreaking. We were reminded of this last night with the deaths of a Jackson State University student and a Mississippi State University student. These are both senseless tragedies and our sympathies go out to each of their families. Despite these tragic occurrences, our university campuses are very safe, with many precautions taken and systems in place to protect students. Mississippi State University’s extensive crisis planning was evident in their swift action and communication to students and the university community through the Maroon Alert system. Both Jackson State University and Mississippi State University have counseling centers and other resources available to students to help them. University officials continue to work with law enforcement officials to solve the crimes.”

-Dr. Hank M. Bounds
Commissioner of Higher Education


Oktibbeha County Coroner Michael Hunt said Sanderson’s death was ruled a homicide and an autopsy is scheduled for 8:30 a.m. Monday, the Starkville Daily News reports.


STARKVILLE, Miss. (AP) — A 21-year-old student was shot to death in a Mississippi State University dormitory, though the killing appears to be isolated and there is no indication others may be in danger, officials said Sunday.

University president Mark Keenum said Sunday in a statement on the school’s website that the killing of 21-year-old John Sanderson of Madison, Miss., 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. Sanderson was taken to Oktibbeha County Hospital, where he died.

Three male suspects fled the building in a blue Crown Victoria. No arrests have been made.

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.


Click here for resources for students and parents after MSU shooting from Mississippi State.


Dr. Mark Keenum comments on Sat. night shooting

March 25, 2012

We are here today to discuss a tragic event that occurred on our campus last night. But because of the ongoing investigation, we are limited in what we can share with you today. However, here are the facts as we know them this morning:

At approximately 10 p.m., last night campus police received notification of an incident in Evans Hall, a male residence hall, and responded immediately. The MSU Police Department was on the scene within one minute of receiving the emergency call. They found a male student with what appeared to be serious injuries; he was transported to Oktibbeha County Hospital for treatment, but unfortunately could not be saved. He has been identified as John Sanderson, age 21, of Madison, Mississippi.

This is the first time in our school’s history that such a tragic incident has occurred, involving a student being shot on campus. Our campus is known as a safe place, and I want to assure students, parents, faculty, and staff that it continues to be safe. Safety is paramount at all times, and we have emergency response plans in place to maintain the safest environment possible. These procedures were executed quickly and effectively last night.

Our campus Crisis Action Team was convened immediately and began monitoring developments and coordinating response. Our police department stepped up patrols, assisted by officers from the City of Starkville and the Oktibbeha County Sheriff’s office. Throughout the night and into this morning, we have kept the campus informed of developments through our Maroon Alert emergency notification system. But we have had no indication that there is a danger to others and we believe this was an isolated incident. We go to great lengths to address safety issues on our campus.

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. They continue to be in our prayers.

Our university police department is leading the investigation, working closely with Starkville Police, Oktibbeha County Sheriff’s Office, and the Mississippi Highway Patrol. They are actively following all leads. We appreciate their hard work and their support. I also want to reiterate to parents and students that our top priority is always the safety and well-being of our campus and all who inhabit it.


UPDATE 10:06 a.m. – From Twitter at Press Conference on campus …

@StarkvilleDaily: MSU President Mark Keenum identifies deceased as John Sanderson, 21, of Madison.

@reflectoronline: The victim was declared deceased around 11:03. A weapon has been found on campus. Campus is not under emergency conditions.

@reflectoronline: Keenum: MSU PD believes this is an isolated incident. They do not believe there is a danger to campus.

@StarkvilleDaily: Bill Kibler, vice president of student affairs at MSU: Weapon found on campus, person of interest identified.

@StarkvilleDaily: Kibler: It is believed perpetrators fled the area immediately after the incident.


UPDATE 9 a.m. – According to Mississippi State Maroon Alert parents of victim have been notified. Police believe the three suspects are not MSU students, university spokeswoman Maridith Geuder told the Clarion-Ledger Sunday morning. Dr. Mark Keenum, Mississippi State University president, will release a statement at 10 a.m.


One student is confirmed dead in a Saturday night shooting at Mississippi State University’s Evans Hall, an all-male dormatory.

University spokeswoman Maridith Geuder said police received a call about the shooting around 10 p.m. Saturday. The victim was taken to Oktibbeha County Hospital, where he subsequently died.

The first public report of the incident came at 10:33 p.m. through the university’s Maroon Alert text-messaging system. The fatality was confirmed by text about 45 minutes later.

Three suspects were being sought after having been seen fleeing Evans Hall in a late-model blue Crown Victoria.

The university confirmed that the person reported to be dead was a male MSU student. It was not immediately clear if that student was a resident of Evans Hall.

The name of the victim was not released Saturday night, pending the notification of family. A news briefing about the incident is planned on campus at 10 a.m. Sunday.

According to media reports, the victim was shot multiple times.

Hours after the initial alert, the campus continued to be “operating under emergency conditions,” according to the school’s website. At 12:43 a.m., it was reported by text alert that “Suspects still at large.”

The four-story Evans Hall, open to freshmen and upperclassmen, holds about 300 students and is located on the northwest side of the Starkville campus.

MSU sent out these Maroon Alerts to students, faculty, staff, etc., as the situation developed.

Here are the alerts:

3/25/12 12:43 am
Suspects still at large. The investigation is ongoing.

3/24/12 11:17 pm
Confirmed shooting at Evans Hall. Victim deceased. Suspects still at large.

3/24/12 10:57 pm
Suspects 3 black males fled Evans Hall in late model blue Crown Victoria.

3/24/12 10:38 pm
Report of a person stabbed or shot at Evans Hall. Perpetrator is still at large.

3/24/12 10:33 pm
Reported stabbing or shooting on campus at Evans Hall

A MSU official said the school could not release any more information at this time and said the case is under investigation.