MSU stunned by slaying of student

February 19, 1994|By Michael James and Melody Simmons | Michael James and Melody Simmons,Sun Staff Writers Staff writers Robert Hilson Jr. and Joan Jacobson contributed to this article.

The Morgan State University student stabbed to death in a campus fight Thursday was a calm, cool-headed man who "got caught up in the emotion of a stupid event," a Baltimore homicide detective said yesterday.

"This was a good, clean guy who at one minute had nothing on his mind but going to class, and in the next minute, he was running for his life," said Detective D. Martin Disney. "It's an unbelievable tragedy that something like this could happen."

Sean Jones, 22, a junior information systems major from Elmsford, N.Y., died Thursday night after he was stabbed in the back by a group of men whom he had confronted earlier for kicking his car in a campus lot.

During the initial confrontation about 5 p.m., Mr. Jones got out of his car and argued with a man who kicked the car. After a brief exchange, the man pulled a knife and chased Mr. Jones, police said.

Mr. Jones escaped unharmed and went to a friend's house. From there, he and his friends "made the fatal judgment error" to go back and find the stranger who kicked the car, Detective Disney said.

When they found the man standing in a group, a fight ensued in which Mr. Jones was fatally wounded. His friends, Shanile Shakoor, 21, and Marlon Sullivan, 21 -- both students -- suffered stab wounds. Mr. Shakoor and Mr. Sullivan are expected to recover.

It is believed that the attackers were not students, but young men or teen-agers who may have gone to the Northeast Baltimore campus to attend a comedy show open to the public, Detective Disney said. Witnesses said the strangers appeared to have been intoxicated, he said.

Police are seeking two to four men, but no descriptions were available.

One of the men with the attackers is a former student who is being sought for questioning, according to police. His name is known to police, but he is not believed to have taken part in the assaults, investigators said.

Yesterday on the campus, the news of the slaying spread quickly. Mr. Jones was remembered as a level-headed man who didn't seem likely to be pulled into a violent confrontation.

"It's shocking because he was cool, and I had no problems with him whatsoever," said Carl Barnes, a fellow Morgan student who met with Mr. Jones just 45 minutes before the attack to plan a three-month class project.

"Last night [Thursday] he wasn't mad or anything. He was normal. He was a quiet person," Mr. Barnes said.

Mr. Sullivan, of Northeast Baltimore, was recovering yesterday at Union Memorial Hospital with stab wounds to the left shoulder and right hand. Mr. Shakoor was treated at the same hospital and released.

Mr. Sullivan recalled the incident from his hospital bed yesterday. He said he was stabbed by one man as another held him.

"He came behind me and got me," said Mr. Sullivan, a junior from Roselle, N.J., who is majoring in elementary education.

Obviously in pain, he shifted in the bed as he described the attack. His mother and grandfather were at his bedside.

"A group of kids had kicked Sean's car. I didn't know any of them," he said.

Mr. Shakoor, a senior marketing major who lives in Northeast Baltimore, said he was stabbed when he tried to help Mr. Jones as he was being held down and stabbed.

"I don't think they were students. I'd never seen them before," Mr. Shakoor said of the assailants.

It took 23 stitches to close the wound on the right side of Mr. Shakoor's face. Two wounds to his back were closed with surgical staples.

"There was a lot of confusion. . . . It happened so fast," Mr. Shakoor said of the brawl.

When he saw Mr. Jones being attacked, Mr. Shakoor said, "I ran over and I tried to push them off him. There were three, one with the knife and two holding him down. They let him go and grabbed me and started stabbing me."

Later that evening, he said, "I was at Union Memorial on the

[operating] table at 9:55 p.m. when a cop came in" and said Mr. Jones had died.

Mr. Shakoor said he had never felt unsafe on the campus before the attack. "I never really had any problems with violence or threats before," he said. Even after Thursday night's attack, he said, "I don't feel any different" about safety on campus.

When Mr. Shakoor's parents heard of the attack on their son, they rushed to Baltimore from Jersey City, N.J. Yesterday morning, they looked tired and worried.

"I would like to see some pressure to prevent people from coming [onto campus] from the outside," said Loranzo Shakoor, Mr. Shakoor's father.

"We've been very proud of this school, but I put a different light on our thoughts on Morgan State now."

Ali Emdad, chairman of the university's computer department in the School of Business, said he last saw Mr. Jones Thursday afternoon while he worked in a computer laboratory in McMechen Hall.

"This makes people wonder how life is so fragile," he said. "But in broader terms, it leaves people in shock and in a deep state of sadness. Security on campus has been improved. But you can't put cops on every corner."

Morgan State spokesman Fred Douglass described the stabbing death as isolated. He emphasized that the 127-year-old campus of 5,900 students often offers safety seminars to students.

Crime figures supplied by Morgan State for the years 1990 through 1993 show there have been no homicides on campus in that time. Last year, there were 18 aggravated assaults, compared with 17 in 1992, 14 in 1991 and 20 in 1990.

A prayer vigil for Mr. Jones is scheduled for 8 p.m. Monday in

front of the Edward Hurt Gymnasium.

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