Morgan State University has gone on lockdown. Unfortunately, it was not before one of its students, Alexander Kinyua, allegedly beat a man in a campus apartment with a baseball bat, or before Mr. Kinyua admitted to killing, dismembering and eating some body parts of his off-campus roommate. Instead, the school's officials, from the president and regents chairman on down, have gone into a defensive crouch in response to increasingly difficult questions about whether someone at the university should have heeded what, in retrospect, look like warning signs that something was amiss with the former engineering student and ROTC cadet. We may not be able to say definitively whether university officials erred in their handling of the case before Mr. Kinyua's alleged violence, but there is no doubt that they have completely bungled the aftermath.
In hindsight, it is easy to see apparent warning signs that something was not right with Mr. Kinyua. In December, he was accused of punching holes in the walls of an ROTC computer lab. He was kicked out of the organization and referred to by his military instructor as a "Virginia Tech waiting to happen" — an ominous reference to the nation's worst campus shooting. At the time, he had self-inflicted burn marks on his arms. A month later, he engaged in a bizarre rant at a campus anti-hazing forum in which he referred to human sacrifice. The school official who had been assigned to meet with him to discuss the circumstances of his dismissal from ROTC was at the forum. Two weeks later, he posted an all-caps entry on his Facebook page referring to Virginia Tech, ethnic cleansing and "death cults." He also uploaded a picture of himself wearing war paint.
Mr. Kinyua had been barred from campus without a police escort after he was kicked out of ROTC, but that restriction had evidently been lifted after a meeting with the school's chief judicial officer, Seymour E. Chambers. Campus officials say privacy laws prevent them from discussing the details of that meeting. They have also refused to release the police report from the ROTC computer lab incident, though The Sun obtained it anyway. It contains the military instructor's Virginia Tech reference and a description of Mr. Kinyua as having anger issues. Nonetheless, punching holes in a wall is a far cry from the violent crimes he is now charged with, and it's conceivable that his explanation, according to the police report, that he was suffering from financial and personal stress would have been convincing at the time.
But what is more perplexing is the fact that Mr. Chambers was in the audience for Mr. Kinyua's speech at the anti-hazing forum. Should that not have triggered some questions about whether the computer lab vandalism might have been more than an isolated incident? Was anyone at the university looking at Mr. Kinyua's Facebook page or talking to his friends and roommates? Those are questions university officials can and should answer.
Instead, Morgan State University President David Wilson has made no public remarks about the case, nor have campus police chief Adrian Wiggins or regents chairman Dallas R. Evans. They may well be concerned that the school could face litigation as a result of Mr. Kinyua's alleged actions — indeed, the attorney for the victim in the alleged baseball bat attack, who suffered facial fractures and blindness in one eye, has said he is investigating whether the university was negligent in failing to identify Mr. Kinyua as a danger.
But they have other responsibilities besides protecting the institution from legal liability. They also have a responsibility to the students and their parents — not to mention the faculty and staff — to assure them that they are and will be safe on campus. It would not violate any privacy rules for Messrs. Wilson and Evans to express concern that a Morgan student stands accused of such a gruesome crime, to assure the university community that security is their paramount concern and to promise a swift, thorough and transparent investigation into the school's handling of this case.
Morgan officials are not the only ones who should face scrutiny, however. On May 19, Mr. Kinyua was charged with first-degree assault and reckless endangerment in the baseball bat attack. The random and vicious nature of the attack should have at least prompted a psychiatric evaluation. Instead, he was released on $220,000 bond. Two days later, Mr. Kinyua's roommate,Kujoe Bonsafo Agyei-Kodie, was reported missing, and five days after that, Mr. Kinyua's brother found the boarder's severed body parts in tin boxes in the basement. All those involved in the decision to release Mr. Kinyua need to answer questions about their judgment in this case as well.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun