While Coppin State track star, honors scholar Dale Dunn, recovers from a shooting stemming from an armed robbery in the Mondawmin neighborhood, his fellow students and loved ones congregated for a moving ceremony in his honor Nov. 3.
A picture of Dunn at his best, during a recent Coppin State track meet, graced a sign-in table at the event’s entrance. A cardboard box was close by, urging everyone to donate at least $1 to help Dunn and his family pay his exorbitant medical bills. Rallying school support, the Coppin athletics department has opened an M&T Bank account in his name.

Students came up one by one to a podium in Coppin State University’s student center to reflect on their relationships with Dunn. Their collective testimonies told the story of a quiet, grounded leader, who is a mentor to his young teammates and a symbol of strength to all that know him.

“I was drawn to Dale’s personality…he strives for perfection and he is a role model,” said Coppin student Reemell Hercules.

According to police reports and teammate testimonies, Dunn, 24, was shot in the chest by three men while walking home alone from Shoppers grocery store in the Mondawmin area on Oct. 26. The men reportedly took everything Dunn had on him and ran off.

Friends say he had been talking on the phone to his mother in Jamaica, who heard the struggle.

After the assault, Dunn was able to walk to the Ruxton Avenue apartment he shares with teammates, and they immediately transported him to St. Agnes Hospital. He was later transferred to Maryland Shock Trauma, where he remains in critical but stable condition.

The Jamaican-born senior, who has a 4.0 grade point average, was named to ESPN -The Magazine’s Academic All America track team for the second consecutive season this summer. Last year, he placed second in the 800 meters at the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference Championships.

After more than two weeks in hospital care, Dunn is now recovering following at least two surgeries and is finally breathing free of a ventilator. He was able to watch the Coppin tribute from his hospital bed via ustream.com.

“I’m waiting for his wounds to heal; I’m waiting for justice,” his father said in an interview with the AFRO. “I’m waiting to be able to have a conversation with my son.”

The incident, which occurred on the corner of North Bentalou Street and Windsor Avenue, just blocks from the school, has many calling for increased security measures on and off campus.

“We need to take back our community,” said Mary Wanza, a Coppin administrator. “We need more protection in this neighborhood. It’s not fair for us to have to worry about going to the grocery story or Mondawmin.

“Help me take it back and help me with this fight to save Dale by saving someone else,” she urged attendees at Dunn’s event.

A small group of students and faculty plan to voice concerns at an upcoming community forum sponsored by Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake in an attempt to vouch for better lighting on side streets and more active Baltimore City police patrol on the campus’ outskirts.

Another track runner said he was robbed at gunpoint in the same area and a Coppin alumna and a current student said they had experienced car theft within blocks of the scene. Carl Hicks, Dunn’s track coach, added that the route Dunn took that night is frequented by the track team and has been for years.

Steve Delice, one of Dunn’s former running mates, said Coppin students must unite to ensure safety.

“We have to learn from this and we can’t become complacent,” he said. “Sometimes we think we are indestructible but there is strength in numbers and there is no shame in walking in groups. We’ve got to look out for each other. We are our brothers and sisters keepers.”

Coppin officials told the AFRO the off-campus incident is rare and the school has the safest campus in the University System of Maryland. Chief Leonard Hamm of the school’s public safety department was not readily available for comment.

“Unfortunately, we had a tragic incident that touched close to home,” Hicks said, “but it is a chance for change for the better. Something good is going to happen out of this. This is bigger than Dale. Dale started it.”

Shernay Williams

Special to the AFRO