-Megan Cole, Reporter
Students and staff of Mississippi College were faced with the unexpected Friday, Aug. 29, as MC Alert, Mississippi College’s resource for emergency communication, sent out a message stating “FULL CAMPUS LOCK DOWN”. Students were told to stay in place and find shelter until further notice. After midnight the lockdown was lifted. Around 1:40 a.m. all buildings were finally announced clear. These precautions were taken due to an armed robbery that occurred near a parking lot at approximately 9:34 p.m.
According to Stephen McCraney, MC Director of Public Safety, two female students were robbed at gunpoint while walking from their dorm to their car in a parking lot south of the Coliseum. The suspect successfully stole their personal belongings after threatening them with a gun. Fortunately, both students escaped unharmed. Officers of the Clinton Police and MC Public Safety immediately responded to the scene to interview witnesses and victims to obtain facts surrounding the incident.
After the initial assessment, MC Alert messages were immediately sent out with the potential suspect information. The accused robber was described as a black male with a medium build. He was seen on foot walking toward the residence halls, wearing long khaki shorts and a white shirt. Clinton Police Department added that he was also wearing a dark-colored ball-cap, appeared to be 20-25 years old, and was last seen headed toward U.S. Highway 80.
Clinton Police later announced that what appeared to be a getaway car for the suspect was seen at Murphy’s Express at 2709 Greenway Drive in Jackson after the armed robbery. Suspects were caught on camera trying to use a stolen debit or credit card at an ATM. The vehicle was described as a dark metallic-red, four-door sedan, with damage to the right front fender.
When asked about any new leads on catching the suspects, Clinton PD Detective Warren Sullivan said that the case was still under investigation. “We can’t release anything or be too optimistic, but we think we are getting closer.” In an update Sullivan revealed that two persons of interest were found and arrested. Clinton Police later released names, photos, and their charges.
Corey Gillispie Booth, 23, of Jackson was identified as the gunman. Conessia G. Samuel, 21, of Jackson was charged as an accessory. Meanwhile, a third person of interest, the driver of the car, is still being searched for questioning by the CPD.
Despite the quick arrests and all the information currently available, students and staff still scramble across campus worrying about their safety, many are still struggling to accept the fact that this happened on MC’s campus. Rose Griffin, Barista of The Commons, believes we shouldn’t be surprised.
“The world is bad; it’s not perfect. This can happen anywhere, even at our Christian university. All you can do is be careful the best you can.” Coming from a similar experience in the past, Griffin also gave her sympathy for the two girls involved.
Sullivan conveyed a similar opinion concerning the shock factor, “Clinton is relatively safe. MC is relatively safe. Is it crime free? There is no where I know of that is.”
On the topic of safety, Sullivan gave a few tips. “You have to trust your instincts and intuition.” Sullivan explained that all people need to become more aware of their surroundings, not just students. “You shouldn’t be afraid to call 911. If something doesn’t look or feel right, call us and we will check it out. That’s what we do.”
“I wouldn’t have wanted it to happen to anyone else,” said one of the victims, who requested to remain anonymous. The victim shared her personal account of the incident and explained how it wasn’t until she made her escape that reality registered in her mind.
“I saw he had a gun and I took off running. In my mind I was already going to get shot. I didn’t know what was going to happen, I didn’t look back.”
When asked about coping with the experience, the victim shared her belief in the power of prayer. She stated that if it weren’t for God she would have never gotten to the better state she’s in and back to class. The victim also mentioned that her pastor advised she pray for her enemy, the robber, the same way her friends and family have been praying for her and the other victim this week.
The victim continued, stating that she doesn’t want what happened to reflect badly on Mississippi College. She still loves MC and is astounded by the support administration has given her. “I’ve never heard of a school where even The President tries to contact students who experience things like this.”
The President of Mississippi College, Lee Royce, shared that this is the first time in 20 years that such a horrible thing has taken place on campus. “I greatly regret and deplore the event,” Royce expressed when asked to make a statement. “I am so sorry it happened to them.”
The President also commended the student life staff, security, and Clinton police, for taking action quickly, clearing buildings, and keeping students safe. In addition, he provided an ending comment regarding our campus, “We will continue to be vigilant as we seek to secure the ongoing safety of the campus.”
McCraney commended the students themselves for their performance during the matter and the key information they provided on the suspects before and after the incident occurred. He also mentioned the campus community and how it had become one of the best sources for information in this case.
“I believe the information helped law enforcement personnel to make an arrest in the case only 5 days later,” McCraney proudly stated. “The students of Mississippi College responded in an outstanding manner.”
Jim Turcotte, Vice President for Enrollment Services and Dean of Students, shared the latest action plan on increasing campus safety and awareness at Mississippi College. Safety topic discussions will be implemented in Blue and Gold meetings amongst MC freshman and in residence hall meetings with all students. Clinton police are also expected to increase patrols across the campus.
This event certainly has been a wake-up call. Despite everything, the “bubble” has not burst. It has and will remain intact, thanks to an amazing staff and caring city that makes up the foundation of the loving Mississippi College family.