The University of Houston student charged with murder in the February 7 death of a homeless man, who was sleeping at a bus stop on the UH campus, lives in the Cougar Place residential complex, and students said they regularly saw him on campus.
Jeremy Lee Pierce, 32, was arrested by UH police department officers Wednesday after an incident where Pierce allegedly threatened other students with a handgun. According to police, HPD investigators obtained a recorded statement in which Pierce admitted to shooting the homeless man, Joe Tall.
A Cougar Place resident, Antonio Head, tells Hair Balls that he saw Pierce almost everyday on campus and occasionally they shot the breeze. In the past couple of weeks, he said, something struck him as odd about Pierce, as if he was angry or had something on his conscience. Head thought Pierce had maybe stolen something and felt guilty about it. "[He] never struck me as a guy who would do something like that," he said.
Pierce seemed troubled but not heartless, he said. "He would always bum cigarettes because he didn't have money for a pack."
Head comes from a rough neighborhood in Nashville, and said that in the couple days since Pierce's arrest he's reverted to some of the old habits of watching his back. He came to UH to feel safer, instead he found himself checking his room with a flashlight last night to see if anyone had broken in.
Another resident, Nicole Smith, said it does not sit well with her that the killing happened only 400 yards away. She used to be a security guard, she said, and she thinks there needs to be more security measures on campus.
Pierce apparently frequented the dining areas in Oberholtzer Hall and in the Moody Towers. Before her supervisor told her not to talk to Hair Balls, a dining area staff member said she saw Pierce in the Moody Towers dining area earlier this week.
While eating at Moody Towers, Temitope Ajala, a freshman international student from Nigeria and a Moody Towers resident, said she hadn't heard about the arrest but thought it was "scary." Out of safety concerns, she said, she avoids going to the library at night, preferring to stay in her room.
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Several other students said they had seen Pierce go in and out of the residence and described his behavior as aberrant and erratic; Pierce was often seen walking alone muttering to himself, they said. A woman working at the convenience store in Oberholtzer Hall, who only identified herself as Melissa, said that Pierce didn't seem normal and that she thought he wasn't a student. Another UH resident said he observed Pierce almost get into fight at Cougar Place a few weeks ago, and that Pierce was often cursing to himself and saying weird things.
The guy obviously has some mental issues, Head said, and he hopes Pierce will be able to get some help.
In a written statement, UHDPS Chief Malcolm Davis, said that statistically the university remains as safe and secure as most areas of Houston and safer than many. Nearly 50 police officers and two dozen security officers patrol the UH campus, the statement said, and more than 500 security cameras enable police to monitor the campus around the clock.
Pierce made his first appearance today in the 177th State District Court.