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The story of the unsolved 2011 murder invoked in Hopkins police force debate

The story of the unsolved 2011 murder invoked in Hopkins police force debate
U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings at the June 2011 funeral in Baltimore for his nephew Christopher Cummings, who was shot to death in a rented house near Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Va. (Karl Merton Ferron / Baltimore Sun)

It was a powerful moment during the General Assembly’s debate over an armed police force at Johns Hopkins University. U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings came to Annapolis and told state lawmakers that his nephew, a promising law student, was killed eight years ago at college in Virginia.

Cummings didn’t hold back to make his point.

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“I literally saw his brain splattered on the wall,” the Baltimore Democrat said. “They had a whole spate of robberies on the campus before my nephew got killed and had not taken the appropriate precautions.”

Old Dominion University, a public school in Norfolk, Va., where Cummings’ nephew was studying, has its own police force.

Cummings’ testimony helped advance legislation to establish the controversial police force. Two days later, the Maryland Senate passed the bill to establish the force; it now heads to the House of Delegates for consideration.

So who killed his nephew?

Nearly eight years after Christopher Cummings was shot to death in his college house, less than a block from campus, the Norfolk Police have not made an arrest in the killing. The department has not revealed a suspect or motive.

Norfolk Police spokesman Daniel Hudson said the department does not discuss ongoing investigations.

Christopher Cummings, 20, had just completed his junior year and decided to study law. On June 10, 2011, he was in his apartment at the edge of campus where he was fatally shot. His roommate was wounded. Police described it as a random shooting.

A few months afterward, the congressman announced police were questioning “a person of interest,” but that person was later released without charges.

Elijah Cummings also invoked his slain nephew in support of gun control and former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. In a radio ad released by her campaign three years ago, the congressman urged an end to the “the madness of gun violence” that killed his nephew.

"He didn't do anything wrong, but like so many of our young people here, his life was taken by a bullet," Cummings said.

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