Morgan State University was placed on emergency lockdown and classes were canceled Wednesday night after a man was shot on campus — the latest in a series of violent incidents that have touched the region's schools this fall.
Many students had just gotten out of class for the day, and others were preparing for evening lectures around 4:15 p.m. when gunfire rang out in Morgan's student center, rattling the Northeast Baltimore campus.
A message sent through Morgan's campus alert system soon aired a warning: "EMERGENCY!!! STAY INDOORS AND AWAY FROM WINDOWS! LOCK DOORS & ONLY OPEN THEM FOR POLICE OR EMERGENCY SERVICES!"
University spokesman Clint Coleman said classes were going on as normal Thursday morning. He added that police are "aggressively in pursuit" of the shooter, but no arrest has been made.
At 4 p.m, students plan to hold a rally in solidarity with the victim and to show that they do not accept gun violence, Coleman said.
The victim, whom police did not identify, was in critical but stable condition late Wednesday. He was not a student, according to Coleman, and officials do not believe the shooter was either.
Nonetheless, many students worried about how the incident would affect Morgan State's reputation. Others worried that the campus is too easily accessible to outside troublemakers.
"I feel like it's a bad look for our school's reputation," said Darius Brock, a freshman civil engineering major from Baltimore who was in his nearby dorm when he received an alert that the campus was on lockdown. "People drive past and all you see are cop lights and reporters, and you know something bad happened."
The shooting comes on the heels of several other school-linked incidents in the area. In one, an Essex middle-schooler allegedly threatened his teacher and other students with a gun. Another saw a Perry Hall High School student shot, allegedly by a fellow student, on the first day of school.
Also Wednesday, a man who had been shot by Baltimore County police fled and was found on the grounds of Catonsville High School.
At Morgan, students said they believed such an incident could happen anywhere, but questioned efforts at the university to improve safety.
"It's nothing new. It's not a cultural shock," said Brandon Parker, a sophomore business major from Baltimore. "They make it seem like they're working towards making our campus better, but nothing ever happens. … Less talk and more action is kind of what I'm speaking for."
Coleman emphasized that the shooting was not a random act, and he said the university took the precaution of "combing every building on campus."
"We believe this young man knew his assailant," Coleman said. "A verbal exchange was heard just before the shooting. We believe this young man was targeted."
Minutes after the shooting, the campus sent out the first in a series of alerts about the violence. An alert posted to the university's website at 5:43 p.m. notified students that classes were canceled.
The lockdown was called off at about 6 p.m., according to campus police, and classes were set to resume Thursday morning.
Morgan's emergency alert system was in the news earlier this year, when some at the university said they were unsure whether the university had properly warned them about an incident involving Alexander Kinyua. Two weeks after an on-campus assault arrest, Kinyua was accused of killing a family friend and eating parts of his body at a Harford County home.
The university did not send out an alert after Kinyua's assault arrest, a decision Police Chief Adrian Wiggins later said was based on the fact that the suspect had been "apprehended in a rather rapid fashion."
Wiggins was recently promoted to the new post of campus chief public safety officer.
Coleman said the victim of Wednesday's shooting was found outside the student center, but offered no further details about why he had been on campus.
Anthony Belton, a junior studying architecture, said he was relieved to find that the shooting was not a random attack. "Otherwise, our sense of safety would be purely limited."
He said he's never felt that the campus was unsafe but is concerned about crime in nearby neighborhoods. Several times a week last year, he said, the university sent out emails alerting students of armed robberies.
"You're never certain who goes here, or who doesn't go here," Brock, the freshman civil engineering student, said. "Anyone can walk into the Morgan bookstore, buy a Morgan hoodie and be on Morgan's campus."
Baltimore City Councilman Robert Curran, who represents the area, went to Morgan's campus after the shooting and met with university President David Wilson and other officials.
"My concern is we have issues with folks coming onto the campus to bring this type of violence," Curran said. "I don't want to see violence from the neighborhoods spill into the school."