When I was a sophomore at Hampton University, I wasn’t much for going out to parties or social gatherings of any kind. The idea of small, hot, sweaty spaces filled with too many people and alcohol overflowing from red plastic cups didn’t hold much appeal to me at the time. Instead, I lived vicariously through the stories of my dorm roommate, who, even though he didn’t drink, had no objections to participating in this aspect of the college experience.
However, that changed the night he returned to the dorm after an off-campus party was shut down as the result of a random and senseless shooting that left one of our classmates wounded and many more with a tragically violent memory they likely live with for the rest of their lives. When my roommate recounted the details of this story to me, I was left in a state of disbelief.
Gun violence was not new to me, I had cousins who were victims and perpetrators of shootings long before I went away to school. But it was precisely the fact that I was away at school, an institution dedicated to higher learning and ideals, that struck me with such force. Of course, you try to prepare yourself for all possibilities, but your best hope is that college is one place that is insulated from this type of arbitrary and unnecessary violence. Unfortunately, I, and many others who thought like me, were wrong.
Students at Youngstown State University in Ohio are now faced with that stark reality. On Sunday (Feb. 6), 25-year-old Jamail E. Johnson, a senior at Youngstown State, was shot and killed during an Omega Psi Phi fraternity house party. Eleven more people were injured as a result of the shooting, including a 17-year-old, with one being critically wounded after being shot near the ear. The two suspects, 19 year-old Braylon L. Rogers and 22 year-old Columbus E. Jones Jr., were due to be arraigned on charges of aggravated murder, felonious assault and shooting into a house yesterday (Feb. 7), but prosecutors agreed to wait a day as the investigation was still underway and details of the incident were still being sorted through, though city prosecutor Jay Macejko says he is “confident that [the police] have the right people in custody.”
The fatalities are not on the same level of the 2007 massacre that took place on the Virginia Tech campus, but the situation is serious on its own merits. Every fall, millions of young people across this country find themselves return to dorms and classrooms away from home, some for the first time ever, in the pursuit of an education, a bright future and a better life. Along the way, they meet other people they enjoy the company of and spend time getting to know through social events, such as parties. It is dreadful to think that concern over whether or not they will live to see another day has to be factored into their daily existence, and in particular during a frat party, a staple of college life. Fun is being replaced with paranoia, as women on college campuses are increasingly at risk to be victims of rape and shootings are taking lives indiscriminately.
Jamail Johnson was set to graduate this spring, and according to classmates had dreams of opening his own business. Neither of these things will occur now, as his life was cut short by two young men who, so far as the information that has been unearthed to this point shows, were upset about an altercation that took place inside the house, left and returned and fired into the party with no regard for the lives therein. And for what? Nothing that could possibly be worth the loss of life or the punishment they are sure to face.
It is true that the United States, above most all other industrialized nations, is a violent society in love with its guns. As sad as it is, we have come to expect gun violence to hit certain segments of the population and not think twice about its occurrence. But when it starts branching out and touching people like college students and politicians, perhaps it’s time to stand up and take notice.