Authorities are not sure whether the suspect in the fatal shooting of a Wesleyan University student Wednesday remains in the Middletown area, but police said he may be targeting the campus and its Jewish community.
The suspect, whom police identified as Stephen Morgan, expressed threats in his personal journal toward Wesleyan and its Jewish students, said Mike Whaley, vice president for student affairs.
Morgan, who has connections to New York, Colorado and Massachusetts, has not been apprehended, and university officials are asking students to remain inside and to be vigilant. Police also asked a synagogue nearby to close.
Morgan was not a student at Wesleyan. He and the victim, Johanna Justin-Jinich, participated in a six-week summer program at New York University in 2007. Both were residents in student housing but did not stay in the same residence hall, according to NYU spokesman John Beckman.
Toward the end of the program, Justin-Jinich filed a harassment complaint with the Public Safety Department, saying she had been receiving harassing e-mails and phone calls from Morgan, he said.
"The Public Safety Department brought in the NYPD, and initial conversations were conducted with each person by the police. Ultimately, after attempts to follow-up with Ms. Justin-Jinich about pursuing the matter, she declined to pursue the case," he said.
A New York City police report shows that Morgan allegedly threatened Justin-Jinich in 2007, when they were attending New York University.
Justin-Jinich filed a harassment complaint on July 10, 2007, claiming that he was calling her repeatedly and sent her insulting e-mails for at least a week.
"You're going to have a lot more problems down the road if you can't take any (expletive) criticism, Johanna," one of the e-mails said, according to the police report.
Morgan had apparently already left New York for Boston at the time the complaint was filed and was not arrested.
Police would not say why they believe Morgan may target the university or Jews.
Justin-Jinich's former stepmother, Karin Radcliffe, said the girl came from a Jewish family. "She was just a wonderful kid, very smart, very loving," Radcliffe said.
Congregation Adath Israel, a synagogue down the street from where the shooting occurred, was closed this morning. The synagogue closed at the request of police, according to a staff member at the First United Methodist Church, which is next door.
Dara Parent, a secretary at the Methodist church, said the church received an e-mail from the synagogue last night notifying its neighbors that it will close due to the shooting at the request of the police.
The Jewish Federation of Greater Hartford has also alerted member organizations to be vigilant and has distributed photos of Morgan, said Cathrine F. Schwartz, the organization's executive director. "We're just practicing appropriate caution," she said.
The federation has directed affiliated agencies and organizations, including synagogues, "to implement heightened security and be aware of unusual or suspicious behavior or persons and trust their instincts," according to a statement on the federations' website, www.jewishhartford.org.
Wesleyan's faculty was also warned to stay home.
"Faculty and staff should not come to their offices unless otherwise instructed. We will be sending information soon in regard to food and other administrative services," Wesleyan spokesman David Pesci wrote in a statement.
In a phone interview, Pesci said no classes were planned for today, even before the shooting. Today is known as a "reading day," he said. It falls between the end of classes last week and final exams, which begin next week.
"We're asking staff, unless we've contacted them, to stay at home for now," Pesci said. They can work from home, he said.
At about 1 p.m. Wednesday, Morgan walked into the Red & Black Café inside Broad Street Books near the campus and shot junior Johanna Justin-Jinich, who worked there, police said. She was rushed to Middlesex Hospital, where she was pronounced dead.
A SWAT team that had been practicing nearby quickly responded and cordoned off the area, and the Wesleyan campus was locked down. The university's annual "Spring Fling" celebrations were canceled.
Later, students dropped plans for a candlelight vigil to remember Justin-Jinich because officials warned against any such gathering. The church remained open with an adult education class and a preschool operating as usual.
Counseling continues to be available to students, faculty and staff, Wesleyan University President Michael S. Roth said in a statement issued shortly before 8 a.m. It also says:
"A beloved member of our community has been brutally murdered. Our deepest sympathies and condolences go out to the family and friends of Johanna Justin-Jinich. This is a tragic time for them, and for all of us in the Wesleyan community. We are all deeply saddened and shocked by this event."
Friends described Justin-Jinich as witty and smart, a popular woman who never seemed to be in a bad mood. Justin-Jinich had studied abroad in Spain and had lined up a summer internship on Capitol Hill in Washington with a women's organization.
Jen Bromley, the owner of a spa in Berlin, had a 2 p.m. appointment with Justin-Jinich on Wednesday. When she didn't show up, Bromley became worried. Justin-Jinich was never late.
At 2:15 p.m, she called Justin-Jinich's cellphone and left a voice message. Then Bromley sent her a text: "Are you on your way??"
Bromley, 28, called her phone again. A woman answered, a friend of Justin-Jinich's who was with her at the Red & Black Cafe near Wesleyan.
"She's been shot," the woman told Bromley. A thin man with a long-haired wig "ran up in here and shot at her at point-black range."
The center of campus was quiet Wednesday evening, with a few students walking about.
"It almost feels like a ghost town," said Beth Davies, a 21-year-old senior.
Others were trying to enjoy what was left of their annual "Spring Fling" celebration -- which was ended prematurely by the shooting and manhunt -- by partying in their houses and dorms.
A few faculty members invited students to the student center, where some were overheard saying they had been excited to graduate this month but now would associate the end of their college careers with tragedy.
Leah Lucid, a 21-year-old junior, had known Justin-Jinich since the first semester of their freshmen year. They were living across the hall from each other this year and were planning on being roommates as seniors. The night before Justin-Jinich was killed, she had been talking past midnight with Lucid in Lucid's dorm room.
"She's a really loyal friend; a really loving, passionate person about life and about her friends and family," Lucid said of her friend, whom she affectionately called Yo-Yo.
Her passions included writing and her work in public health and women's issues, Lucid said. Justin-Jinich volunteered at various Planned Parenthood offices in her home state and in the area.
"She was the most giving and loving person I have ever known," Lucid said. "I'll remember her loyalty and her warm smile whenever I saw her and her very funny voices she would make with me."
Eli Allen, 21, a senior, had been at the bookstore the day before buying his cap and gown.
"It's weird because there's this general sadness. The Wesleyan community has been affected, violated."
Yudhi Kandel, a 24-year-old senior and resident assistant in a freshmen dorm, said that students were in disbelief.
"It's pretty sad. ... It's a shocking thing."
Freshman Alexandra Cuervo, 19, said she and friends were beginning to celebrate Spring Fling when they heard about the shooting. At first, they continued with their partying, she said, until more details became known on campus.
"I feel guilty," Cuervo said. "It just wasn't taken as seriously until we found out it was a Wesleyan student."
Reality set in for her and her classmates, and jovial turned to somber, she said. "I think people are also scared. They're in their dorms."
Ben Bernstein met Justin-Jinich in their Diasporas in Transnationalism class this semester and said she was "amazing."
The 20-year-old junior English and music major said that Justin-Jinich "was just a totally intelligent, terrific person in every way. She was just nice to everybody. I had great discussions with her, in and out of class. It's just a horrible thing."
Ryan La Rochelle, 23, of Boston, said he was shocked. He knew Justin-Jinich from Westtown School, a small boarding institution in southeastern Pennsylvania they attended as high schoolers. La Rochelle learned about her death from the media.
"She was a very beautiful and kind girl," La Rochelle said. "I have no idea how something like this could have happened."
After Bromley, the owner of Silk Waxing Spa, learned that Justin-Jinich had been shot, she closed the shop and drove to Middlesex Hospital with her cousin, another friend of Justin-Jinich's who attends Wesleyan. They thought she was still alive. But as they pulled into the hospital parking lot, the cousin's boyfriend called with the news.
"I've been crying and distraught all day," Bromley said Wednesday evening. "She's a really happy, really smart girl. Really intellectual. ... I can't imagine why any one person would dislike her and want her dead."
An Associated Press report is included.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun