By NEMS Daily Journal
Deaths of college students, no matter where they happen and how, seem out of time because they are out of context – a life ended just as it begins to mature and look ahead.
Increase the loss, shock and pain when the death is a homicide – one person killing another, as happened late Saturday night in a dormitory at Mississippi State University and, a few hours later, near Jackson State University at an off-campus, private party.
The victims were John Sanderson, a 21-year-old MSU student who had transferred from Holmes Community College, and Nolan Ryan Henderson, a freshman from Atlanta at Jackson State.
Mississippi State responded quickly and vigorously to what became the first homicide of a student on its 20,000-student campus in Starkville. Sanderson, according to authorities, was shot multiple times outside his room on the first floor of Evans Hall.
The facts of both cases will unfold. MSU spokeswoman Maridith Geuder says Mason Perry Jones of Jackson was arrested Monday in DeSoto County and charged with capital murder in Sanderson’s slaying. He had been arrested on an unrelated warrant in Memphis.
Henderson was reported to have attended a pool party at Palisades Apartments, within walking distance of the Jackson State campus. He was found shot in the face near one of the buildings and pronounced dead about 2:15 a.m., The Clarion-Ledger reported. A fight had preceded Henderson’s death, the Jackson newspaper reported.
Jackson State issued a statement of concern and condolences, but the investigation is being handled by the Jackson police, which has said little, pending developments.
Mississippi State responded efficiently and appropriately, from President Mark Keenum in person with students at the dorm, in public statements and through its communications department. The campuswide Maroon Alert system was used. Students in nearby rooms were moved to other housing to keep the crime scene clear for investigators. A vigil was held Sunday night.
The immediate need is to accept reassurances from MSU that its campus is safe because all the indicators point to that. Isolated acts of violence happen almost everywhere, even occasionally on college campuses, which are necessarily safe havens for learning, maturing and developing relationships.
A return to normal at MSU must include mutual support among students and vigilance for one another in even the most secure places.