Eighteen-year-old Texas Southern University freshman Brent Randall was on his way to class on the afternoon of October 9 when he was shot to death outside his dorm room. His half brother was also shot but survived. Less than 12 hours earlier, another student was shot and wounded outside the same building. And just two days earlier, yet another student was struck by a bullet after a gang member, who was not a student, got in an argument with him after a basketball game in the middle of the main thoroughfare on campus, Tiger Walk.
Randall's mother, Jacqueline Mouton, has now filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the university. The lawsuit argues that, given the university was aware of the dangers these violent crimes posed to students, it should have responded accordingly with ramped-up security, which could have saved her son's life.
Her attorney, Nuru Witherspoon, said that, following the shooting that happened hours before Randall's death, at the same exact student-housing complex, the university should have been on lock-down. “But nothing happened,” he said. “It was just business as usual.”
Randall's death appears to have been what finally prompted TSU to act, with new precautions such as setting an 11 p.m. curfew at dorms and adding extra security rotations—but according to Witherspoon, this was much too late. The week of shootings that ended with Randall's death was certainly not the first time the university had seen violence. Shortly after the semester began, in August, another student was fatally shot. But Witherspoon said that the university's location alone should have been enough for administrators to know that it needs top-notch security, at all times—not just after someone is killed.
“You have to start with the premise that Texas Southern is located in a very dangerous part of town,” Witherspoon said. "There's a history of high crime there. And so in light of that, they have to take adequate security measures. In this case, we learned that even the security personnel thought it wasn't enough.”
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Meanwhile, TSU is preparing for Texas's new campus-carry law to take effect in August, when more guns will likely be toted across Tiger Walk. TSU, being a public university, is not allowed to opt out. In October, TSU President John Rudley and administrators held a panel to address students' and faculty's concerns about what this might mean for a university already grappling with gun violence. Rudely firmly denounced the new law when one student asked his opinion, saying its passing made him “furious.” “We shouldn't be introducing guns into an educational environment,” he said. “It doesn't make sense to me.”
Rudley will be stepping down after his contract expires in August—and gun violence apparently has a lot to do with his decision.
He told the Houston Chronicle earlier this week, “I didn't want to wake up and deal with, 'We have lost another student or two. I woke up after the last one and said, 'Enough of this.'”
And so did Brent Randall's mother, who wore her son's senior-year basketball jersey for days following his death. “Her son just graduated high school," Witherspoon said. "It needs to be clear that she trusted this place. From a moral standpoint, there should be some sort of responsibility they feel."