One of the nation's largest historically black academic centers mourned the death Thursday of a 19-year old student hit by a stray bullet as she walked on campus with friends just after midnight.
Police said Jasmine Lynn of Kansas City, Mo., was struck in the chest when at least six shots were fired during a fight at Clark Atlanta University, one of four adjoining campuses that together make up the Atlanta University Center. Lynn was a student at one of the schools, Spelman College.
Jerome Jones, a Clark Atlanta student who was with Lynn, was hit by a bullet on the wrist and was treated at a hospital and released, police said.
"One of the friends actually heard the gunshots, actually saw the weapon and told her to get on the ground," Atlanta Police Lt. Keith Meadows said. "As she was getting on the ground, she got shot in the chest."
Meadows said Lynn was taken to Grady Memorial Hospital, where she died.
‘Person of interest’
College officials and police are unsure whether students from Clark Atlanta, Spelman or neighboring Morehouse College were involved in the fight that lead to the shooting. Morehouse College of Medicine is the fourth school in the complex.
Police were questioning witnesses and talking with a "person of interest", Meadows said. For now, police are looking for one suspect, though investigators have not ruled out the possibility of more than that, Meadows said.
Police said security cameras probably captured the gunfire but that they do not yet have a clear description of the shooter.
Hours after the crime scene tape was cleared from the street outside several Clark Atlanta dorms, students hurried across the campus complex in a morning rain. Security guards could be seen lowering the flag to half-staff on Spelman's quad.
Family is ‘devastated’
An impromptu memorial service was held at Sisters Chapel on the Spelman campus, where students cried and held each other as President Beverly Tatum addressed them for the first time since the shooting hours earlier.
"I know this is very unsettling for all of us. But this is the kind of horrible incident that could have happened anywhere," Tatum said to the tearful students.
She said Lynn's family is "devastated" by the incident and will help college officials plan a more detailed memorial service later.
Some students talked about the shooting as they walked to class.
"I got a text about it this morning from a friend," said Spelman student Safiya Braithwaith, 20, who said she had seen Lynn on campus but did not know her. "I started thinking about her family. Their child just started school last week, and all of a sudden, she's gone."
The university complex is set in one of Atlanta's tougher neighborhoods. The campuses are so close it's often hard to tell where one ends and another begins. Students commonly cross between schools to visit each other and can take courses on each other's campuses.
Problems with safety
The area has had some problems with safety, especially at Clark Atlanta, where the campus is more open than the gated streets of Spelman and Morehouse. In 2006, students pushed for closing the campus after two people were shot on or near the college.
Clark Atlanta President Carlton Brown said at a news conference Thursday that he is working with city officials to close off streets that run through the campus in hopes of making it more safe. But he stressed that the shooting could have happened on any of the urban campuses in Atlanta.
"The matters we are addressing here are the same issues on any college campus in America, particularly those in urban areas," he said. "Georgia Tech is no safer than Clark Atlanta University. Georgia State is no safer than Clark Atlanta University."
Both Clark Atlanta and Spelman are providing grief counselors to students who need to talk about Lynn's death, administrators said. And Spelman is leaving its chapel open for students to hold prayer services.