By Monica Land
STARKVILLE – Officials at Mississippi State University are working with local law enforcement agencies on the case of a 21-year-old student found shot to death in a dorm over the weekend. John Sanderson was pronounced dead at Oktibbeha County Hospital after campus police responded to “an incident” at Evans Hall.
Dr. Mark Keenum, president of MSU, said he believes the shooting was an isolated incident.
“This is the first time in our school’s history that such a tragic incident has occurred, involving a student being shot on campus,” Keenum said in a statement. “Our campus is known as a safe place, and I want to assure students, parents, faculty, and staff that it continues to be safe. Safety is paramount at all times, and we have emergency response plans in place to maintain the safest environment possible. These procedures were executed quickly and effectively [Saturday] night.”
“But we have had no indication that there is a danger to others and we believe this was an isolated incident,” he continued. “We go to great lengths to address safety issues on our campus.
The shooting prompted the school to send out a campus-wide alert through a series of text messages.
School officials said Sanderson was shot between 10 and 10:30 p.m. in Evans Hall, a men’s residence hall, which houses less than 300 students.
A reporting of the incident came in about 10:33 p.m., and at 10:38 p.m., three black males were seen fleeing Evans Hall in a late model blue Crown Victoria.
Keenum said the lack of security may not have been a factor as students must use a keycard to gain entry to the building.
Authorities said Sanderson was reportedly shot multiple times and transported to a local hospital where Keenum said emergency responders “could not save him.”
After the shooting, Keenum said students adjacent to the room on the first floor near the shooting were cleared and another 24 students were relocated.
Sanderson’s family in Madison were notified about 12:49 a.m.
“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. They continue to be in our prayers.”
Keenum said MSU police responded within one minute of being notified of the shooting and are continuing their investigation.
“Our campus Crisis Action Team was convened immediately and began monitoring developments and coordinating response,“ he said. “Our police department stepped up patrols, assisted by officers from the City of Starkville and the Oktibbeha County Sheriff’s office. Throughout the night and into [Sunday] morning, we have kept the campus informed of developments through our Maroon Alert emergency notification system.”
Early Sunday morning, police were reportedly talking to witnesses and reviewing surveillance tapes.