By Deborah Bailey,
AFRO Contributing Editor,
Homecoming weekend posed difficulties for Bowie State University faculty, staff and students due to an unexpected shooting. But on Oct. 9, University president Aminta H. Breaux rallied the campus together to reflect on the incident and provide a forum for the campus community to raise their questions, voice concerns and think about next steps.
“This session today is the beginning of a healing process. Today we are coming together because there were individuals on our campus who were armed and who were shot,” said Breaux. “We are coming together as a campus community to make sure this never happens again.”
Breaux said campus administrators are weighing the pros and cons of new security measures including metal detectors in select campus buildings and required IDs for the campus community.
At approximately 11:45 pm on Oct. 7, shots rang out near the campus’ Center for Business and Graduate Studies. Two 19 year old males were injured and taken to the hospital. The victims were not students at Bowie State and neither teen suffered life threatening injuries.
Mack Cummings, Bowie State University’s chief of police, reiterated that the shootings were the result of outside groups coming on to the Bowie State Campus.
“The groups we were able to see had an argument. There was tension between the groups that were there. Unfortunately two people were tragically shot,” Cummings said.
As the night went on, parking reached capacity and Cummings said a decision was made to close the gates for additional cars to enter. However, many attending the session said that cars were parked for miles on route 197, just outside of the campus. Guests continued to walk from the road nearby to enter the school throughout the evening. Cummings estimated the crowd reached 10,000 persons at its highest point.
Cummings and other speakers during the rally, said Bowie State Police were supported by additional uniformed and plainclothes units from the Maryland State Police and Prince George’s County Police department.
He and other speakers said the campus community must also participate in insisting visitors respect the campus.
“I believe this is our house. And we have to make sure that our guests and visitors have the same decorum that we have. Ensure that they would treat our campus the way that you would treat the campus,” Cummings insisted.
But several members of the audience pushed back, raising questions about the crowd atmosphere before the shooting started.
“I know it isn’t possible for the police to be everywhere at every moment. But one of the behaviors I saw that I was mortified by was the number of people walking around with open bottles of alcohol and not hiding it. People were selling mixed drinks in little pouches,” said Januela M. Burt, associate professor of Educational Leadership.
“I don’t want to see us put up metal detectors; I don’t think we’re quite there, not yet,” Burt countered. “The campus police need to do a better job in building relationships with our students. I saw them all on the perimeter, but I really didn’t see them on campus interacting with students.”
“Campus police were laughing and making derogatory comments while students were trying to shelter in place,” commented a student during the session who asked not to be identified.
Darren Swain, president of Bowie State University’s alumni association, said that the shooting incidents would not deter Bowie.
“This is our house; this is our tradition. Homecoming is sacred,” Swain said. “We’re not going to let anyone, anywhere shut us down,” he continued.
“This is a safe school. Homecoming was a very peaceful event until the shooting happened. I want everyone who’s thinking about coming here, to still come,” said the Baltimore native.
Senior Jaivien Kendrick, thought the session was a beginning, but therapeutic work needs to be done on campus and in the community, particularly after the pandemic.
“Dr. Breaux and a lot of people are trying their best to handle the situation,” Kendrick said. “Will more security fix this? I’m not sure. We have a lot of healing that needs to happen with our people, that’s the root of the problem.”