Baltimore City

Police investigated cannibalism suspect in machete report

Three weeks before Alexander Kinyua was charged with dismembering a family friend and eating some of the body parts, police at Morgan State University investigated a report that the suspect had a machete in his dorm room, school officials confirmed Monday.

Officers went through his campus apartment on May 4 and Kinyua "volunteered to drop his pants" to be searched, a university spokesman said, but police found nothing. That same day, police responded to a complaint that someone threw a rock at a window at the housing complex, and a report says Kinyua was later identified as the culprit.

The allegations are the latest in a string of peculiar interactions and violent encounters Kinyua had with campus police, school leaders and classmates in the months leading up to the disappearance of Kujoe Bonsafo Agyei-Kodie on May 25. His remains were discovered five days later in Harford County.

The latest report raises questions about whether police handled the machete call correctly, and whether it was yet another in a series of warning signs missed by authorities before the gruesome crime, on which Kinyua faces a first-degree murder charge. The 21-year-old had been described in one campus police report as "a Virginia Tech waiting to happen."

Dr. James P. McGee, the recently retired director of psychology and law enforcement forensics at Sheppard Pratt Health System, said Kinyua's string of odd behavior — including at least two violent acts and postings about ethnic cleansing on Facebook — should have triggered more concern from university officials.

"This would have scored the highest score on a threat assessment," said McGee, who spent 15 years as chief psychologist for the Baltimore County Police Department. "It would've been a 10 out of 10. You got to put these pieces together."

McGee, who served on the FBI's Critical Incident Response Group and helped on the Unabomber case, said Morgan officials missed patterns of behavior. He said someone trained in risk assessment "would have concluded that the suspect is a very high-risk case that requires significant intervention, and it could've been identified fairly early on."

Morgan officials had no comment Monday on the series of events involving Kinyua, or on the university response.

School spokesman Clinton R. Coleman has said the president is leading a review of "every level of the organization that might have had contact with this young man." Officials have not released a complete list of prior interactions with the suspect, some of which have been divulged by sources and in police reports obtained by The Baltimore Sun.

A campus police report obtained by The Sun on Monday shows that the machete incident began about noon, when an officer on bicycle patrol was flagged down by a maintenance employee. She reported that a man known as "Mufossa" — Kinyua's nickname — had thrown a rock at a window of an Apartment No. 203 in the Thurgood Marshall apartments, cracking the glass.

The apartment's occupants told the officer that the suspect "was angry because one of the roommates might have slipped something in his drink," according to the police report. The hall's resident director identified "Mufossa" as Kinyua, the report says.

Coleman said that two hours later, a resident adviser tried to issue an administrative citation to Kinyua over the broken window. But Kinyua refused to sign it and went back inside his apartment, No. 304.

The adviser called police on the campus emergency line, Coleman said, telling them he was too scared to confront the suspect, who "is known to carry a machete."

Coleman said school officers met Kinyua at his apartment. "They did a thorough search of his room and of his body," he said. "He volunteered to drop his pants."

The officer did not find a machete, which would be illegal on campus under school rules. Coleman said that "no report was written because they didn't find anything."

City police generally write reports or issue "citizen contact forms" when they search a home or a person, but Morgan's policy on writing reports could not be ascertained. Coleman referred questions to the police chief, who has declined to comment on the case.

Edward T. Norris, a former Baltimore police commissioner, said he would have recommended a report be generated. "If someone says, 'I've seen this guy with a machete,' I'd write something," Norris said. "This guy has a pattern, and the incidents are not spread out over five years, but by a couple of months."

Norris added, "This is happening on a very closed community where people like that should stand out."

Kinyua did stand out, at least to some police, staff and students. Some have questioned whether individual incidents should have been linked earlier.

In December, an ROTC instructor told a campus police officer that Kinyua was an "unusually angry person" after he allegedly punched seven holes in an office wall. The instructor noted Kinyua had self-inflicted scars that he attributed to tribal markings, and called Kinyua "a Virginia Tech waiting to happen," a reference to a mass shooting by a student.

Kinyua was thrown out of the military training program but allowed back on campus.

A month later Kinyua referred to blood sacrifices at an anti-hazing forum attended by students and top university officials. Meanwhile, Kinyua's Facebook postings grew more bizarre, with references to Virginia Tech, ethnic cleansing and death cults.

Two weeks after the May 4 machete call, campus officers arrested Kinyua on an assault charge, alleging that he hit a young man with a baseball bat wrapped in chains. The victim said later that his friends saw Kinyua standing over his unconscious body holding a knife.

Kinyua was released on bail on May 23. Two days later, Agyei-Kodie went missing from the Joppatowne home of Kinyua's parents.

The victim — whose hands and head were found May 30 in the home, and the remainder in a trash bin at a nearby church — was a former Morgan student from Ghana awaiting deportation. Police said Kinyua has confessed to eating Agyei-Kodie's heart and part of his brain.

McGee, the former Sheppard Pratt psychologist, said it appears that campus police and others simply took perfunctory reports and missed the big picture. He rattled off a litany of past mass shootings in which such signals were missed.

In Columbine, Colo., nine months before two students gunned down 12 classmates and a teacher, a parent gave police copies of the suspects' website, which threatened killings. "The cop wrote a report and stuck it in a drawer somewhere," McGee said. There were other warning signs involving parents, friends police and teachers.

Similar warning signs were apparent at Virginia Tech. It was the worst school massacre on record, and became a symbol and a warning for campuses nationwide.

McGee said that too often police are trained to handle "the aftermath of a crime." But after Virginia Tech, "threat assessment" is becoming a part of training for both law enforcement and psychologists, he said.

Authorities at Morgan State have said they evaluated Kinyua after the ROTC incident but concluded that he was not a threat.

"Unfortunately, the folks who continued to assess and manage the case there were not properly trained or qualified," McGee said.

"We have to dismiss the idea that these kinds of incidents cannot be anticipated," the psychologist said "They can. We have to dismiss the idea that perfectly normal people suddenly snap and commit horrible crimes. They don't. And we have to dismiss the idea what once you've identified a highly agitated person, there is nothing you can do about it. There is."