A gunshot at the Crossroads Hall during an unsanctioned block party was first reported by The DrumBeat on Monday, Sept. 18. The DrumBeat learned about the gunshot from a student who witnessed the scene. After contacting the college, student media was told that the college was investigating the incident as a “loud bang.”
TJC started their investigation of the shooting the day after, on Tuesday, Sept. 19. In an interview with The DrumBeat that day, Director of Public Affairs and Media Relations, Rebecca Sanders said an officer was on the scene at the time of the gunshot and heard the loud bang but did not believe it was gunfire.
“The source of that noise is undetermined and there is an investigation that is continuing. The campus police are investigating. The bang is undetermined and was not perceived as a threat and we do not believe that there is threat to students,” said Sanders on the day of the investigation.
However, according to the Smith County arrest warrant affidavit, obtained by KLTV and shared with The DrumBeat, the statement from the officer on scene appears to suggest that the officer thought the sound was a gunshot.
The affidavit states, “Sergeant Mark Pierce of the Tyler Junior College Police Department heard a loud noise (believed to be a gunshot report). This noise was investigated with no results.”
The investigation was completed on Wednesday, Sept. 20. Following the investigation, the identity of the suspect was known and the “loud bang” was confirmed to be a gunshot.
Police say 22-year-old student Malcolm Love fired the gun. William R. Richardson, who is not a registered student for this semester, had an on-going dispute with Love. A previous contact between the two resulted in Love allegedly pointing a gun at Richardson in a Wal-Mart parking lot on Sept. 16.
Richardson made contact with TJC police officer, James Lucas, Sept. 20 and reported he saw Love.
“Richardson stated the [sic] he had started to leave in order to avoid a confrontation. Richardson advised that he started walking to his friend’s car and Love and an un-identified Black Male followed him to the center of the parking lot,” according to the arrest affidavit.
Richardson stated that he looked at Love and the other male and that both subjects were pointing handguns at him.”
On Sept. 23, Sergeant Pierce and assistant Chief Dale Hukill of TJC PD found a spent 9mm Luger shell casing in the parking lot that the accident occured in.
A week after the shooting and five days after the investigation concluded, Love was the main suspect. He was finally arrested on Sept. 25. He is currently in the Smith County jail on a $601,000 bond. For five days Love was free, out in the public, and believed to be capable of firing a weapon at and individual.
All this while, no timely warning was ever issued. From the time the gunshot was heard, to the time Love was identified, to the five days until he was arrested. The school never issued a warning to student, faculty or staff.
“Why was there no campus alert? Because the bang is undetermined and was not perceived as a threat. We do not believe that there is a threat to students or anyone at TJC,” said Sanders on Sept. 19.
According to the Clery Act, the school must issue a timely warning for any crime that represents an ongoing threat to the safety of students or employees; and issue an emergency notification upon the confirmation of a significant emergency or dangerous situation involving an immediate threat to the health or safety of students or employees occurring on the campus.
The Clery Act is a federal law passed in 1990 to inform students about crime activity on campus. The law was passed after Jeanne Clery, a student at Lehigh University, was raped and murdered in 1987. Clery’s parents argued that the university should have warned students about recent crimes so that they could protect themselves. All colleges who receive federal financial aid money are required to follow the Clery Act.
According to Executive Director of Marketing, Media and Communications, Kim Lessner, Campus Police Chief Randy Melton are in charge of sending timely warnings for crimes.
In order to learn more about the incident, The DrumBeat has requested security camera footage under the Texas Public Information Act. The request was denied by the school. The school cited privacy of the ongoing investigation and revealing the locations of the camera. However, The DrumBeat editors documented 13 security cameras around Crossroads Hall that are fully visible.
In a previous version of this story, The DrumBeat mentioned Robby Underwood, director of risk management, can send timely warnings. Kim Lessner has since then clarified that Robby Underwood only sends timely warnings about weather-related events.
In a previous version of this story, Love’s age was reported at 19, but his age is 22.