Morgan State University
Classes on the campus of Morgan State University were canceled on Oct. 4 as police continued their search for a gunman who wounded five people on the campus, shortly after a homecoming event on Oct. 3. Credit: Photo courtesy of Morgan State University

By Layla Eason
Special to the AFRO

Classes on the campus of Morgan State University (MSU) were canceled on Oct. 4, as Baltimore Police Department and Morgan State Police Department (MSUPD) officials continued the search for a gunman who opened fire on the campus late Tuesday night.

One woman and four men sustained gunshot wounds around 9:30 p.m. on Oct. 3, as festivities related to the coronation of this year’s Mister and Miss Morgan State University came to a close inside of the Carl J. Murphy Fine Arts Center (MFAC). Police could be seen conducting their investigation near Thurgood Marshall Hall dormitory, directly across the street from the cultural center.

“I was in the Fine Arts Center after the coronation, just taking in the moments with friends, then I heard loud bangs. Everyone just started running and I instantly started too,” said Savannah Sales, an MSU student who attended the  homecoming event. “I lost my friends in the crowd and thought I would lose my life.”

Sales said that after finding shelter in a bathroom, she went back into the lobby of the building to try for an exit door. Witnesses say the chaos only escalated when a second spate of gunshots were heard minutes after the first round.

In the lobby, Sayles says she realized at least one gunshot had actually hit the building where she was located. She eventually found her friends and was able to escape unharmed.

As the shooting took place during a public homecoming event, family members, friends of students who attend the institution, faculty and MFAC and MSU staff were on campus at the time of the gunfire.

 “My best friends and I were using the bathroom and just heard people running back into where we were,” Femi Epps told the AFRO, shortly after being released from lockdown. “We were all in some room of the building and they put us on lockdown, but we snuck out the back. I didn’t feel safe in the building.”

After the shooting ceased and police secured the scene, MSU President David Wilson, Baltimore City Mayor Brandon M. Scott, newly sworn-in Baltimore City Police Commissioner Richard Worley and MSU Police Chief Lance Hatcher held a press conference.

“We received the call at approximately 9:27 , I believe, and the first alert went out at 9:30 ,” said Hatcher. “There were approximately four additional alerts that went out subsequent to the first pillar.”

BPD asked people around the 1700 block of Argonne Drive to shelter in place around 10:01 p.m. via their social media accounts. A message informing students and MSU alert recipients of a shelter-in-place order on the MSU campus was received at 11:03 p.m., with officials lifting the  shelter-in-place order at 12:55 a.m., according to screenshots and email communications shared with the AFRO.

After being asked how it was decided that the campus was reopened while the suspect had not been found, Worley responded that it was a mutual decision and there were extreme safety procedures taken place before the campus opened up after the incident.

“We didn’t open the campus up until a SWAT team cleared the building where the suspect may have ran, where we thought the shot came from. We cleared every floor twice. After that, we realized the campus was most likely safe,” said Worley, during the press conference held around 1:45 a.m. on Oct. 4. “We opened back up because the shooter was nowhere around.”

Many students are shaken up due to the swat team coming into their rooms, gun pointed. Students report that authorities made some male students lift their shirts to prove that they were not in possession of a firearm.

Students, parents and community members are expressing concern with how MSU will move on with a week full of homecoming events after a shooting.

“We do understand that our university and community is traumatized by it and as such, we are moving forward to canceling classes…We also have in place 24/7 counseling services,” said Wilson, standing on the corner of Argonne Drive and Hillen Road after the shooting. “I have met with the students tonight, they are availing themselves to those services.”

In the face of this latest adversity, Wilson said that the spirit of the university would not be shaken.

“This is a very tragic incident on the campus of the National Treasure of Morgan State University. By no means will it define who we are as a university,” said Wilson. “Morgan is an anchoring institute in Baltimore City. We are one of the top institutions in the United States. We are a fast growing institution.”

“Morgan State University will not be destroyed–we will move forward,” he said.

In-person counseling will be available inside of Holmes Hall and the Thurgood Marshall Hall dormitory building where victims were seen coming out on stretchers.

In addition to counseling, The Residence Inn by Marriot, located at 800 N Wolfe St, offered rooms to students who were not able to get back into their dorms on the night of the lockdown. Many students are still scared to return to campus.

For the first time in institution history, Morgan State University officials announced that all homecoming and campus activities would be canceled, with the exception of the homecoming football game and MSU Gala, which are both postponed.