- (Photo: Liberty University/David Duncan)
Early Tuesday morning, 19-year-old Liberty University student Joshua Hathaway was shot and killed by a school security guard. As the school's community was learning the details of incident, Jerry Falwell Jr., the current chancellor of Liberty, informed students that the twin brother of a current Liberty student was killed in a car crash. A day after Hathaway was shot, a current student attempted suicide.
"People are in shock about all of the serious things that have happened involving Liberty," Grant Leasure, a senior at the school and its newspaper's editor-in-chief told The Christian Post.
A day after Hathaway's death, Colby Tallafuss, a resident assistant (RA) in the building where the slain student had lived, described the campus mood as "somber" and "introspective" and said that the incident had shaken his collegiate "aura of invincibility."
While Tallafuss did not know or even recognize Hathaway, "it got a little rough."
"Being an RA myself I was kind of concerned for their RAs and being concerned for the family...I didn't know if he knew the Lord. I didn't know anyone who knew him," Tallafuss told The Christian Post.
Tallafuss awoke at 7 a.m. on the morning of Nov. 19 to police cars outside his building, which he assumed were there because of a traffic accident or drunk driving incident, "because it was so early in the morning."
"I didn't hear a gunshot where we were and we were only 200 yards away. [When I] went on the bus was when I first heard what I thought was a rumor about someone being shot," said Tallafuss.
Tallafuss lives in Liberty Residential Annex I, one of two former hotels that the university has recently transformed into student housing to accommodate its on-campus student population of 12,600. Students living there pay several hundred dollars less a semester than their on-campus classmates and take a shuttle to campus, roughly three miles away.
For Tallafuss, Tuesday mostly felt like a normal day, though he phoned his mother to tell her he was safe and was relieved when he discovered that he did not know the victim.
"Tuesday night we had our normal hall meeting where everyone on the hall gets together for announcements but this time the whole annex got together and one of the leaders of the school came out and actually spoke to all of us...there were a couple hundred guys in that room and everyone was very quiet and respectful, which isn't only the case when you get 100 guys together," said Tallafuss.
Elsewhere, students voiced dissent and approval for how the university had communicated with them about Hathaway's death, Leasure said, adding that some of his friends who had signed up for the school's emergency alert system wished the school had used it in this instance.
"One thing I've heard is that [Liberty University] should really reconsider their security policies and notification of students about things like that when they would happen," said Leasure. "The other side is that they agree it wasn't a threat to student and they can see why [the University] didn't send out a notification."
While Tallafuss acknowledged that he had received limited information the day of the shooting, he still felt "safe" and despite the outcome, given what he knew, he felt comfortable with the officer's decision.
"[It] doesn't really bother me. The way the facts were presented, it was in self-defense," said Tallafuss. "As I understand it [the officer] felt threatened...That doesn't really bother me. I don't know what other alternatives there. Would it be better for the police officer to potentially lose his life by not defending himself?"
Leasure was more ambivalent.
"I don't know what the altercation was like, whether it was necessary or not," said Leasure. "I'm sure there are situations like that where sometimes using a weapon like that is necessary, but as far as what's necessary for police to use, what they feel like they need to resolve the situation...I'm not really an expert on what the police should have used, what they shouldn't have used."
According to the latest details in Hathaway's case, a search warrant sought earlier this week by city police Detective Collin Byrne and filed in Lynchburg Circuit Court, stated that Hathaway allegedly violently turned on a security officer after informing him that he had been robbed of his vehicle.
"The security officer then began to investigate Hathaway's complaint but Hathaway then pulled out a hammer from his clothing and assaulted the officer," it stated.