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MSU and JSU mourn tragic deaths of students

AP Images/The Reflector/Micah Green


The fatal shootings of two Mississippi college students over the weekend has led to an outpouring of sympathy from University of Mississippi students and administrators. 

“When these types of things happen, we’ve got to realize that the other universities in Mississippi are one family,” said Dean of Students Sparky Reardon on Sunday afternoon. “So we grieve with our friends at Mississippi State and Jackson State, and just know that our thoughts and prayers at the University of Mississippi are with our friends at Mississippi State and Jackson State.”

Nolan Ryan Henderson III, 19, a Jackson State University student from Atlanta, was shot in the face and found at 1400 Valley St. in Jackson. John Sanderson, 21, of Madison, a first-semester transfer student to MSU, was shot multiple times Saturday night. Suspects in both shootings remained at large Sunday night. 

UM administrators said Sunday that they don’t yet know how the Mississippi State gunmen got past dormitory security, which is similar to the security used in residence halls on the Ole Miss campus.

Henderson was found on the ground and pronounced dead on the scene. No suspect information has been released.

Sanderson was shot multiple times Saturday night on the first floor of the Evans Hall residence building. Police were called at 9:54 p.m., and arrived within one minute. Sanderson was pronounced dead at 11:03 p.m., Bill Kibler, MSU vice president of student affairs, said in a press conference. The shooters are not believed to be MSU students, according to MSU officials.

A gun has been recovered and campus police have identified a person of interest. The police have surveillance tapes from Evans Hall. Police are looking for three people reportedly believed to be involved in the shooting.

MSU President Mark Keenum said Sunday in a statement that there was no indication others are in danger.

Twenty-four students located on the same floor of the shooting have been relocated to other residence halls on campus, Kibler said.

In an email, Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Larry Ridgeway said it is important that RAs, hall directors and desk workers enforce the access policy strictly.

Ole Miss student Thomas Foi said he feels safe in the Residential College.

“The RAs are really good about (identifying people),” Foi said. “They know pretty much everyone here. Living in a residence hall, you don’t think something like that would happen here. It doesn’t feel like something could happen, but it probably could.”

In the event that something does happen, Noel Wilkin, associate provost and strategic planning chair, said the best thing students can do is to educate themselves on the emergency plans.

“I think it is very important that all of us in our community are aware of what to do when we are facing a crisis situation,” Wilkin said. “Everyone should understand the appropriate procedures for when a thing like that occurs.

“Our hearts go out to the victim of the incident,” Wilkin continued. “Our thoughts are with the entire Mississippi State community.”

Associated Student Body president Taylor McGraw said the ASB would find a way to pay its respects.

“We’re also going to stick with our friends who are at those schools and hopefully make phone calls to them and give them our support,” McGraw said. “It’s tough to swallow. I think like most people, I thought immediately about if that had happened on our campus, and you know you have some of those thoughts, and it helps you empathize with students at Mississippi State and Jackson State and the poor families of the students who were killed.”

McGraw said it is a tough realization that something like this could happen to anyone at any time.

“It lets you know that even when you think you know you’re in a safe environment, it’s the furthest thing away from (your) mind, and nobody is immune from tragedy,” McGraw said. “We don’t always know the reason for it. I hope they track down the people who are responsible.”

If an event such as this were to happen at Ole Miss, University Police Department Chief Calvin Sellars said his first priority would be to catch the shooter.

Sellars said security guards patrol all campus dorms at night and that UPD cars patrol the campus every night. UPD pays extra attention to the dorms.

“The reason why we protect the dorms is because that is where students live,” Sellars said.

Jackson State President Carolyn Meyers released a statement Sunday morning on the university’s Facebook page advising students to take extra safety precautions on campus and be prepared to show official university identification when requested.

“This is a very tragic loss,” Meyers said. “As a parent and grandparent, my heart goes out to the family. We offer our sincerest condolences and prayers during this very difficult time.”

Henderson’s friends took to twitter following his death, remembering him as a good person who did not cause any trouble, sending out prayers to his family and coordinating a candlelight vigil.

Though JSU released information online, J.C. Foster, a music education freshman at Jackson State, said students did not receive an alert about the incident.

At MSU, Maroon alerts were sent to students Saturday night, and officials said they have received no reports that any of them failed. 

Leading up to the shooting, there were approximately six robberies at Mississippi State in the Rice Hall dormitory. Daniel Edwards, an MSU music education freshman, was one of the students robbed on Monday.

“I’m not sure (if the shooting and robberies are connected),” he said. “The suspects aren’t believed to be students.”

Edwards said classes are not cancelled, but the campus is on lockdown for the most part.

“The campus is pretty dead right now,” he said. “Nobody is really leaving their dorms.”

Students at MSU have been instructed to stay safe and cautious of anyone looking for a ride. The suspects are believed to have fled toward Jackson.

Keenum said in the press release that he wanted to assure students, parents and faculty and staff that MSU, which is known as a safe campus, continues to be safe. 

“Our Bulldog family is saddened by this event and the loss of one of our students,” Keenum said. “Our hearts go out to John Sanderson’s family and friends and they will continue to be in our prayers.

“Our top priority is the safety and well-being of our campus and all who inhabit it.”

For more information on emergency preparedness, including information on severe weather, students can visit www.olemiss.edu/emergency.


Jacob Batte, Jon Haywood, Emily Roland and the Associated Press contributed reporting.