Tuesday afternoon, sounds of chatting students and scraping silverware at South Campus Dining Hall quickly fell into a hush as every ear perked at the now-familiar words streaming from a cafeteria TV.
Each head turned to stare at the screen mounted to the dining hall’s ceiling, where a news broadcast headline declared two university students had died and one had been injured in an apparent murder-suicide about a block from the campus early that morning. Most students watched the details of the shooting unfold slowly, then watched the story reappear again and again on their phones and computers and out of the mouths of friends and professors.
But many still struggled to understand how the morning’s events had come to play out just a half-mile from the security of North Campus’ high-rise dorms.
Early Tuesday morning, graduate student Dayvon Maurice Green shot two of his roommates, both university undergraduates, at their 8706 36th Ave. home. Stephen Alex Rane, 22, of Silver Spring, was pronounced dead at the hospital Tuesday, said Julie Parker, Prince George’s County Police spokeswoman, and the second victim underwent surgery yesterday afternoon for non-life-threatening injuries.
Doug Klein, who lives on the 8800 block of 36th Avenue, said he heard about four or five gunshots shortly before 1 a.m., but at first thought he may have imagined the noise. None of his roommates noticed anything, but about 15 minutes later, the sound of emergency responders’ sirens infiltrated the house.
“We could see from our porch them bringing people in ambulances. … At that point, I realized it definitely wasn’t some random noise I heard,” he said. “We didn’t know it was students until this morning.”
Walking back to his dorm with a friend at about 12:45 a.m., Kyle Forbes, a freshman business major, heard a loud bang in the distance.
“I looked at my friend, and he said the sound was a firecracker, but I thought it was a gunshot,” he said.
Forbes said they continued walking behind Fraternity Row and “tried to forget about it.” But half an hour after returning to his dorm room, he received the crime alert on his phone and realized what he had heard.
“I was in shock; I didn’t think I had heard an actual shooting,” he said. “You can never be safe walking alone at College Park at night.”
Several other students echoed Forbes’ wariness about safety in the city. A recent spate of gun-related incidents nationwide, most prominently the December mass shooting in Newtown, Conn., that left 20 children, six faculty, the shooter and his mother dead, were fresh in students’ minds when they began receiving multiple crime alerts of armed robberies on and off the campus the past two weeks. For many, yesterday’s shooting awoke fears that seemingly random acts of violence can find their way to any school, any community.
“I’m now extremely worried for my safety,” said Amal Figueroa, a sophomore enrolled in letters and sciences. “It’s not something to be calm about.”
Figueroa plans to avoid walking around the city alone for the foreseeable future, she said.
“At this point, you just don’t know, and pepper spray isn’t going to save you from a gun,” Figueroa said.
As they sat over a breakfast of cereal and toast in the South Campus Dining Hall yesterday morning, Ida and Aden Daniel were stunned by the news of two student deaths.
The twin government and politics majors took a minute to compose their thoughts after hearing the news, but as seniors living on the campus, they both feel their living arrangement is safer because it’s within the boundaries of the university.
“Once you’re off campus, it’s just every man for himself. It’s just been steadily getting worse and worse,” Ida Daniel said. “I think that it’s really scary. Lately, there’s been a lot of crime, but it’s been robbery, robbery, robbery. Now, it’s a murder, so it’s really scary.”
Klein was no less shocked watching the early morning’s events unfold from just a block away. However, he said the incident concerns him less than the threat of an armed robber targeting students at random.
“I think the armed robberies in a way are almost more disconcerting, because those are random victims, whereas a murder is something that’s probably premeditated, and he knew the victims ahead of time and everything,” Klein said. “An armed robbery is something that could happen to me on my way home from classes.”
Several students turned their attentions to the campus community and are reminding people of the importance of checking up on one another regularly. Support and communication can help prevent breakdowns that may escalate to violence, as well as help students get out of situations in which they may be in harm’s way.
“It’s a matter of awareness,” said Zara Simpson, a senior engineering and materials science major. “The whole thing is crazy. We saw things at [Newtown, Conn.], and no one thought it could happen here.”