The University of Connecticut campus was rattled last week when the university's starting cornerback and punt returner was killed after the team's homecoming victory against Louisville.
Jasper Howard, 20, was stabbed once in the abdomen and died in the arms of his teammates during a fight after a university-sanctioned dance. This was a mere 12 hours after Howard had a career-high 11 tackles and forced a Louisville fumble during a critical play at UConn's homecoming football game. Howard was the first in his family to go to college and was a soon-to-be father as well.
Being just a year older than Howard, I cannot help but feel affected by the death of someone I did not even know. How could someone so young be killed in such a violent manner?
The most puzzling and disturbing part of this developing story is that Howard was killed outside the UConn Student Union after an on-campus event. That would almost be the equivalent of a Richmond student being stabbed outside the fraternity lodges.
Where was security when the fight broke out? Where were the police? How was there not an on-the-spot arrest when so many people were present at the scene of the crime?
All of these questions should be unsettling to any college student thinking about what happened the night of Oct. 18.
On Tuesday - more than one week later - three men were arrested in connection with Howard's death. John William Lomax III, a 21-year-old male from Bloomfield, Conn., was charged with felony murder but said he had only been trying to break up the fight.
There were more than 300 people present when Howard died, including many of his teammates, so why did it take this long to identify these three as the major players in Howard's death? This does not seem as if it would be difficult with such a crowd witnessing the crime.
One ESPN report cited UConn police officials, who said some witnesses had been afraid to come forward with evidence because they had been threatened by violence via online postings - yet another unsettling message to students nationwide about the safety of college campuses.
Imagine being a freshman during the first two months of your college career and witnessing the death of one of your peers. Or you're one of Howard's teammates that cradled the dying player in their arms before he took his last breath. That image will stick in those young college students' minds for the rest of their lives.
This kind of thing can happen anywhere. Stabbings are not isolated to UConn and are definitely not exclusive to collegiate football players either. There had not been a homicide directly connected to UConn in nearly 30 years, according to a CBS News report.
I am going to go out on a limb and say the average University of Richmond student does not worry on a day-to-day basis about being a victim of such a violent crime. But I also bet Jasper Howard did not predict his fate either.
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I do not write this to instill a sense of great fear in the minds of my peers, but campus violence such as this makes reality sink in and forces everyone to think. Think back to the Virginia Tech shootings just a few years ago and the sweeping security enhancements this campus alone faced as a result. Students now receive text-message and e-mail alerts and the university tests its emergency systems on a regular basis.
UConn has a fully accredited police force just like Richmond does and yet its security could not prevent this from happening at a school-sanctioned, on-campus event. Richmond police appear to be at nearly any location at virtually every minute of the day, but that does not make the campus immune to violence.
Jasper Howard's death not only brings to light overall campus safety issues, but it also brings to mind the degree of vulnerability collegiate athletes have to similar acts of violence. Howard was not just a normal student; he had a starting position at one of the country's top collegiate athletic schools. He was inevitably in the limelight and had more attention cast his way than the average academic at his age.
How much more attention should be paid to ensure the safety of athletes across the country? Is it even fair to say that a member of Richmond's National Champion football team would be worthy of more protection around campus than an average student such as myself?
It is a difficult line to draw, but when looking at professional athletes, politicians and entertainers, there is always more emphasis placed on their safety than that of the general public. Do not get the wrong idea. I am not openly advocating that athletes receive more attention from campus security at the expense of other students' safety. I do suggest, however, that the death of Jasper Howard should invoke conversations across campuses with high-profile athletic programs and address how to best secure the safety and well being of these highly recognizable athletes.
Contact staff writer Jessie Murray at email@example.com
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