Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Wesleyan Arrest: Jews & Students Targeted (Updates)

May 8, 2009 Update

A man who Connecticut police say sparked two fearful days at a university by killing a student and threatening a campus shooting spree surrendered Thursday night, May 7, 2009, after seeing his photo in a newspaper.

Stephen P. Morgan, 29, was taken into custody about 9:15 p.m. after stopping at a Cumberland Farms convenience store in Meriden, about 10 miles from the Wesleyan University campus.

Clerk Sonia Rodriguez told The Associated Press that she didn't recognize Morgan when he came in and scanned the newspapers. He asked to use the phone but had trouble dialing, so he asked Rodriguez to dial the police department for him.

After he finished his call, Morgan walked outside to wait for police, Rodriguez said. She didn't realize there was anything wrong until several officers arrived and threw Morgan to the ground to arrest him.

When police told Rodriguez that Morgan was wanted for Wednesday's fatal shooting of 21-year-old Johanna Justin-Jinich in Middletown, "I got nervous and I started crying," she said. "I just got very, very scared."

Morgan is being held on $10 million bond and is due in court Friday morning.

Justin-Jinich was shot several times inside a bookstore cafe just off campus by a gunman wearing a wig. Authorities have said Morgan and Justin-Jinich have known each other since at least 2007, when Justin-Jinich filed a harassment complaint against him while they were enrolled in a summer class at New York University.

An official with knowledge of the investigation told The AP that police stopped Morgan shortly after the shooting, spoke to him and let him go, only to later realize he was a suspect.

When police confiscated Morgan's car they found a journal in which he spelled out a plan to rape and kill Justin-Jinich before going on a campus shooting spree, said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the case is under investigation.

Wesleyan officials said that police told them that Morgan targeted Wesleyan students and Jews in his journals. Justin-Jinich, of Timnath, Colo., came from a Jewish family, and her grandmother was a Holocaust survivor.

Morgan's brother Greg told the AP that Morgan wasn't anti-Semitic. His family issued a statement pleading with Morgan to turn himself in "to avoid any further bloodshed."

Greg Morgan did not immediately return calls placed by The Associated Press after police announced the arrest. There was no answer at the home of Morgan's father.

A woman answering the phone for Justin-Jinich's father said the family had no comment Thursday night on Morgan's arrest. She would not identify herself.

Apparently applying the lessons of Virginia Tech, police and administrators locked down the 3,000-student campus and stepped up patrols as authorities launched a hunt for the killer.

"We are all breathing a little easier with this news," Wesleyan President Michael Roth said Thursday night.

Wesleyan officials had told students to stay indoors and staff members to stay home. Most buildings on campus, including cafeterias and the library, were locked Thursday. Normally bustling sidewalks were empty, and police cruisers patrolled the campus of the elite liberal arts school.

In dorms, students in flip-flops, gym shorts and pajama pants shuffled downstairs to pick up box lunches.

Brenna Galvin, a sophomore from Amherst, N.H., said her family was considering bringing her home. "It's hard to know what to do," she said. "Really, we're just trying to keep in touch with people at home."

The university's Usdan Center was opened briefly Thursday night so students could have dinner, but they were asked to return to their dormitories by nightfall. Officials planned to open the university library on Friday and start returning the campus to a normal schedule.

Middletown's only synagogue, Congregation Adath Israel, across the street from the bookstore, was closed Thursday and congregants were considering canceling Sabbath services Friday night and Saturday.

"It was a no-brainer to close the building until we knew more information," synagogue president Eliot Meadow said.

On Thursday afternoon, police got an arrest warrant charging Morgan with murder.

The shooting stirred memories of the Virginia Tech shootings, in which a deranged student killed 32 people and himself. A panel that investigated the 2007 massacre said university officials erred by not acting more quickly to warn students. Police had mistakenly concluded that the first two victims were shot as a result of a boyfriend-girlfriend dispute.

Sebastian Giuliano, mayor of Middletown, a city of 48,000, immediately thought of that tragedy as he saw five police cars race by Wednesday. "Don't tell me it's another Virginia Tech situation," he said.

The shooting occurred early Wednesday afternoon as several hundred students gathered for a concert held annually to allow students to blow off steam before finals. Police and university administrators moved everyone indoors and canceled the concert.

Police gave the all-clear late Wednesday afternoon and said there was no danger, but did an about-face two hours later, warning students to take immediate shelter.

Police said evidence uncovered at the scene prompted the renewed warnings, but they offered no details. Later Wednesday, they released a surveillance photo of the gunman and said they were looking for Morgan, a former Navy man who university authorities said had no connection to Wesleyan.

"Everything we did was based on information we received from Middletown police," Wesleyan spokesman David Pesci said.

There was more confusion when the university posted a photograph purportedly of Morgan on its Web site, only to use a photo of another man. It was replaced Thursday afternoon by two images supplied by police.

Cornell University professor Stephen Morgan thought it was bad enough that he shares the name of a man accused of murder.

But then an assistant showed him a Web site with a photo supposedly of the suspect. What he saw was a decade-old picture of himself.

The sociology professor's photo was posted on Wesleyan University's Web site along with details of Wednesday's fatal shooting of 21-year-old Johanna Justin-Jinich. The image was then broadcast nationally.

Wesleyan says it got the photo from police. Police say they never released the image.

Morgan thinks the photo was taken for his Massachusetts driver's license when he was a Harvard University graduate student. Wesleyan eventually replaced the photo: The Hartford Courant


The last day of classes for the year was Tuesday. Final exams are scheduled to begin on Monday.

Morgan and Justin-Jinich had known each other at least since 2007. Police records show she filed a harassment complaint against Morgan when they were enrolled in the same six-week program at New York University. In a complaint filed in July 2007, Justin-Jinich said Morgan called her repeatedly and sent her insulting e-mails.

One of the e-mails warned: "You're going to have a lot more problems down the road if you can't take any (expletive) criticism, Johanna."

Both were interviewed by university police, but Justin-Jinich decided not to press charges.

In a statement read to reporters outside his parents' Marblehead, Mass., home, the Morgans said they were "shocked and sickened by the tragedy" and extended their condolences to the victim's family.

They added: "Steve, turn yourself in right now to any law enforcement agency wherever you are to avoid any further bloodshed.

We love you. We will support you in every way and we don't want anyone else to get hurt."

Penny Wigglesworth, who lives in the same upper-middle-class neighborhood, called them a "model family" and described Morgan as pleasant and polite.

Justin-Jinich would have graduated next year from Wesleyan. She was a 2006 graduate of the Westtown School, a Quaker boarding school outside Philadelphia.

"It's just a tragic irony that her grandmother would survive the Holocaust and she would be gunned down in a bookstore," said Eric Mayer, a religion teacher at Westtown School who was her academic adviser.

Wesleyan officials said a memorial vigil for Justin-Jinich will be at 1 p.m. Friday in a campus courtyard.

May 7, 2009 Update:

Jews and students at the prestigious US college Wesleyan were warned Thursday to stay indoors as a hunt intensified for the gunman in the slaying of a student at a local cafe.

Police said there were fears that the suspect, still on the loose, may be targeting Jews and students from the university in Connecticut.

"Evidence uncovered overnight suggests that Mr Morgan may be focused on the Wesleyan community campus as well as the Jewish community," said Lynn Baldoni, chief of police for Middletown.

"Investigators have been in contact with Wesleyan University and leaders of the Jewish community, urging both to be extra vigilant," she told a news conference.

College president Michael Roth ordered "all students to remain inside their residence and to remain vigilant." Staff were told not to come to the campus, unless requested to do so.

A notice on the Wesleyan website said the suspect had voiced threats against Jews in his journal.

"Although he apparently had a direct link to the victim but no other connection to the Wesleyan community, we have now been made aware that he expressed threats in his personal journals toward Wesleyan and/or its Jewish students," the statement said.

Johanna Justin-Jinich, the May 6th victim, was Jewish.


Middletown, Connecticut police have identified the victim of a shooting at a Wesleyan University bookstore as a student from Colorado.

Police say Timnath, Colorado, native Johanna Justin-Jinich was shot several times Wednesday afternoon, May 6, 2009, by a disguised gunman at the bookstore in downtown Middletown. Police say they are still searching for the gunman, whom they described as a white male with a thin build, who had apparently been wearing a wig as a disguise.

Johanna Justin-Jinich, 20, was a junior at the university. According to reports, she was shot several times while working a shift in the Red and Black Cafe. A gun was recovered from the Broad Street Books store, where the cafe is located.

Middletown police are still looking for the gunman. Mayor Sebastian Guiliano told the Associated Press the shooting "didn't appear to be random."

Police released a photo of the suspect but would not confirm newspaper and TV reports that he is Justin-Jinich's ex-boyfriend.

A wig was recovered at the scene of the fatal shooting at the bookstore near the Wesleyan University campus.

Police have identified the suspect as 29-year-old Stephen Morgan, the Associated Press reported. It's unclear where he lives. A Wesleyan spokesman said he had no known connection to the university.


The Secret Sun said...

That's right off of Route 17, btw. Horrible. I think we're going to reach a boiling point with this kind of incident rather quickly and could see something draconian come down the pike. Don't know if it will change the situation though.

cryptidsrus said...

I agree with you, Christopher.
The politicains eager for reelection and media talking heads like Nancy Grace and O'Reilly are sure to lap this up and milk it for everything it's worth. I fear for the state of my country.