A Baltimore city jury awarded $900,000 to a former Morgan State University football player who was injured in a shooting on campus in 2012, and later sued the school, contending that it did not provide a safe environment for students.
Tyrell K. Okoro, 23, was shot in both legs and the torso outside a dormitory on the last day of classes in December 2012.
Okoro's attorney, Robert L. Hanley, Jr. said Morgan had a responsibility to keep its students safe, and failed his client who had lasting impacts from the shooting.
"I think it was very clear that the jury found Morgan breached its duty to provide a safe campus to its students," Hanley said. Because a non student with a handgun was allowed on campus and "sprayed students below with gunfire," he said.
Morgan spokesman Clinton R. Coleman said school officials "were disappointed in the jury's verdict, given that Mr. Okoro was injured by someone who was not known to the University and whose actions we could not control."
But Coleman said Morgan continues an "exhaustive review of its security/guest accountability policies."
The complaint said "Morgan and its employees, officers and agents knew or should have known that its failure to properly address violent crime on its campus had created an environment that would subject its students, including Okoro, to an unreasonable risk that they would become a victim of violent crime."
It noted other incidents of violence that occurred on campus before Okoro was shot, including the beating of Joshua Ceasar. Ceasar was beaten with a barbed wire-wrapped bat and left legally blind by Alexander Kinyua, who later pleaded guilty in a cannibalistic murder.
Ceasar receive $185,000 after reaching a settlement with Morgan in 2014.
The jury in the Okoro cases awarded $76,131 for medical expenses and $823,869.00 for non-economic damages, Hanley said. This case is subject to the $200,000 limitation on damages against state agencies.
Christine Tobar, a spokeswoman with the Attorney General's Office which represented Morgan at the trial, said the office is "disappointed in the outcome," but will seek to reduce the verdict in accordance with the $200,000 cap.
Keith Robertsonwas charged in the Nov. 30, 2012, shooting, outside the Thurgood Marshall Apartment complex on campus.
According to the complaint, Robertson went to Morgan to collect an alleged debt owed by another member of the football team. That member of the football team and Okoro were heading to the apartment complex when Robertson, who was standing on an apartment balcony, opened fire, discharging eight to ten shots, the complaint said.
The complaint said Okoro had no interaction with Robertson before the shooting, and Hanley said his client did not know Robertson.
Okoro was hit by several shots and suffered multiple injuries to his spleen, small bowel, colon, bladder, diaphragm and lower extremities, the complaint said. He remained in the hospital for 11 days.
Robertson was charged in the shooting, and later sentenced to 30 years with 20 suspended.
Hanley said Okoro has to take blood thinners for the rest of his life because of blood clots after surgeries related to the shooting, which forced him to quit football.
Okoro moved to Baltimore from Long Island to play football at Morgan. Hanley said he eventually graduated and still lives in the city, working as a physical education teacher.