Some students at Bowie State University tried to focus on touchdowns over tragedy for a little while as their football team took on Livingstone College in today's homecoming game. Since Thursday night, the campus has been coping with the stabbing death of Dominique Frazier allegedly at the hands of a roommate.
"I never thought the last time she said goodbye would be the last time she said goodbye," said Chidi Essinen, who had been friends with Frazier since last year. Essinen said that Frazier had her own style and was different than other young women on campus.
"It's just crazy," said Jirae Foster, a senior from Charles County, Md., who lives on the fifth floor of the residence hall where Frazier was killed. "We don't have a lot of crime, you know, just a few cases of petty theft, a few fights, but never something like this."
Another student, Erika General, agreed. "I don't think the university should be judged on one act of a student," she said.
Campus A Safe Haven
According to university crime statistics through 2009, the highest number of incidents occurred in 2007 with 46 burglaries, nine vehicle thefts and five robberies. In terms of personal violence, aggravated assaults averaged eight a year and three forcible sex offenses were reported in 2009. Categories involving death and those for many other crimes showed no incidents.
Founded in 1865, the university sits on 295 acres on the northern edge of the Bowie, Md., a suburban community halfway between the state capital in Annapolis and the nation's capital in Washington, D.C. Bowie State has fewer than 6,000 students, only a fourth of whom live on campus. Commuters and non-commuters alike consider it a safe haven. Based on interviews and comments on Twitter, their biggest concerns lately ranged from homework to homecoming. All of that changed on Thursday night.
The next day, Maryland State Police charged Alexis D. Simpson, 19, with first-degree murder, second-degree murder and first-degree assault. Simpson is one of three students who shared a four-bedroom suite with Frazier on the second floor of the apartment-style Christa McAuliffe Residential Community. Originally from District Heights, Md., she is being held without bond at Prince George's County Detention Center.
According to District Court documents, witnesses told police that Frazier and Simpson had been arguing during the past week. Frazier was in her bedroom and playing music in one of the suite's two bathrooms as the students prepared to attend a comedy show as part of the homecoming activities. Simpson shut down the iPod and responded "no" when students asked her to turn the music back on, witnesses said.
Frazier began arguing with Simpson in the hallway, and then they started fighting. One witness told police she was assaulted as she tried to break up the fight, but she was able to push Simpson into her bedroom and close the door. The witnesses said Simpson returned, swinging a knife. Frazier grabbed her throat, staggered into the hall and collapsed.
"It took the police a really long time to get here," said Taylor Hamilton. a sophomore music tech major who also lived in Frazier's dorm. "I mean, she was just laying out."
Prince George's County Police received a 911 call "just after 8 p.m.," state police said. "University police officers were also notified and were the first to arrive on the scene." Frazier was pronounced dead at about 8:44 p.m. at Prince George's Hospital Center, police said.
Unaware of Tragedy
Some students attended the comedy show Thursday night, unaware of the tragedy on campus. As word spread, however, Frazier's death dampened spirits and raised fears. Bowie State cancelled classes and a pep rally on Friday. Instead, the university made counselors available to help grieving students, who paid tribute to Frazier during an afternoon memorial and later that evening at a homecoming fashion show.
"As far as them canceling events, I don't think she would've wanted that," Hamilton said of Frazier. "She seemed pretty excited about homecoming in her tweets."
Police are still investigating the case, checking into various accounts of the women's relationship and incidents leading up to the altercation.
"There are so many versions of the story," said one student who declined to give her name. "They were having problems since they moved in."
"She stabbed her out of self-defense, because she was getting jumped," the student said of Simpson.
A Welcome Diversion
Frazier "was a victim of anger misdirection," said Elijah Harvey, who graduated from Bowie State in 2006 with a degree in communications. "The school needs a service that provides psychiatric help if they don't already have one."
The resumption of homecoming activities, including today's parade, game and step show, has been a welcome diversion, helping students take their minds off the stabbing, they said.
"Though it kind of brought down the spirit of homecoming in a sense," Foster explained, "it also brought on a little bit more unity."