LYNCHBURG, Va.—As police continue their investigation into reasons behind the fatal shooting of a Liberty University student Tuesday, Nov. 19, a spokesman for the school called the mood on campus somber and prayerful.
“We dedicated a portion of this morning’s weekly convocation service (Nov. 20) to remembering all of those affected by this tragedy,” said Johnnie Moore, vice president of communications. “That includes the family and friends of [victim] Joshua Hathaway, the police officer and all others who are especially heartbroken.”
Hathaway was shot during an early morning fight with a campus security officer, according to news reports.
Liberty President Jerry Falwell Jr. called the event “traumatic” during a news conference Tuesday afternoon. He said the university was doing everything in its power to cooperate with the Lynchburg Police Department’s investigation.
“We’re providing professional counseling services to our students,” a somber-looking Falwell also said. “We are deeply saddened by what has happened. It’s impacted our entire community in ways that we are just beginning to understand.”
Moore said Liberty has licensed counselors who are normally available to students and additional faculty from the Center for Counseling and Family Studies have been made available.
At the convocation service, Falwell encouraged students to seek counseling, whether it concerned struggles related to Hathaway’s shooting or other issues.
“No one knows what was going through Joshua’s head,” said Falwell, according to a report in the Lynchburg News & Advance. “I urge you to get help. Don’t wait till it boils over.”
Classes continued on a normal schedule after the shooting, which occurred just after 4 a.m. Nov. 19 at Annex II, a women’s dormitory affiliated with Liberty. It is a school residential hall even though located approximately three miles north of campus.
An affidavit from the Lynchburg Police Department said the 19-year-old Hathaway lived across the street from the dorm, where students have set up a memorial to him.
Police Detective Collin Byrne said Tuesday morning that Hathaway approached a Liberty security officer, saying he had been robbed and someone stole his White Pontiac (later located in the dorm’s parking lot).
“The security officer then began to investigate Hathaway’s complaint but Hathaway then pulled out a hammer from his clothing and assaulted the officer,” Byrne said in a search warrant issued for the victim’s campus records.
“A struggle ensued between Hathaway and the security officer. At some point during the struggle there was separation and the security officer fired two rounds at Hathaway. [He] was struck by at least one projectile and subsequently succumbed to his gunshot wounds.”
Byrne, recounting a conversation with Hathaway’s roommate, said Hathaway reportedly had displayed unusual behavior in recent days.
The detective said he was seeking the warrant to help determine events that occurred prior to the shooting. However, this morning a spokesman for the police department said it had no additional information to release.
The name of the Liberty security officer has not been released.
According to a report from Texas in the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal, Hathaway was class salutatorian and one of the first 11 seniors to graduate last May from Southcrest Christian School.
Founded in 1993, the school’s main campus is located at Southcrest Baptist Church, which is affiliated with the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention. A second campus nearby serves as a facility for pre-kindergarten and first grade students.
A Lubbock TV station reported that Hathaway’s mother is a teacher at the school. Superintendent Linda Merriott told KCBD that many students and faculty were grieving the loss.
“I loved this young man and believed in him and would do just about anything to help him,” Merriott said. “Our country has lost a young man who loved the Lord with all his heart [and] who worked hard to achieve and succeed. He was a young man who had the heart of others in mind.”
Others also described Hathaway as a good student, including Susie Driscoll, who was one of his junior high teachers at Southcrest.
Driscoll told the News & Advance he was a “brilliant” student and fluent in Spanish, which he had used on a trip to Peru. She said he helped a ministry there that serves homeless children.
“Josh [was] a really great kid,” Driscoll said. “We are devastated.”
Falwell, in the news conference, said Hathaway had a 3.9 grade point average and no record of discipline problems. Falwell noted at the convocation that Hathaway’s grades had earned him a full academic scholarship to Liberty, where he was studying business.
Among those the president requested prayer for is the security officer who killed Hathaway, saying that nothing can prepare a university campus for this kind of tragedy.
“These kinds of things are not easy to get over,” Falwell said.