Incoming students take precautions after recent violence near Howard University’s campus

Incoming freshmen at Howard University, Ashton Pressey, (L) and Christian Vaughn (R) say they plan to be cautious about personal safety in light of a recent attack on Howard students off campus, but Pressey says, “we’re proud to be at the Mecca,” using the nickname for the historic university. (Photo courtesy Pressey and Vaughn)
During the Howard University Safety Fair, students were greeted by employees like Angie Logan-Pope, with the Office of the Provost. (WTOP/Kate Ryan)
Howard University Police Chief Marcus Lyles said he wants to find the balance of safety for students and connections with the community. He says the investigation into a recent attack on students is “very active.” (WTOP/Kate Ryan)
Howard University campus welcomes incoming freshmen at the annual Safety Fair. (WTOP/Kate Ryan)
Incoming freshmen visit Howard University’s Safety Fair. (WTOP/Kate Ryan)
Howard University’s campus in Northwest D.C. (WTOP/Kate Ryan)

There’s nothing new about Howard University’s Safety Fair — the event is done every year as freshmen move into the campus in Northwest D.C.

But this year, the event with music, a drumline and a chance for new students to connect with each other, followed a violent attack on several Howard University students, one of whom was stabbed during the assault by a large group of young people.

Christian Vaughn, 18, an incoming freshman told WTOP, “During the daytime, it’s a beautiful campus of course, with love and support everywhere,” but in some areas off-campus, he said, “it’s kind of hectic.”

Still, Vaughn, who is from New York City, said he’s simply planning on being cautious when heading out at night.

Ashton Pressey, 18, also a freshman, said his parents heard about the attack on Howard students. As a result, Pressey said, “they’re calling me a lot more … telling me that they love their baby and such, telling me to be safe every time I go out somewhere.”

Vaughn and Pressey said they had been advised to go out in groups of five or more, but since hearing of the attack near the campus, Vaughn said, “now it’s like — definitely more than the five!”

But, Pressey, using the nickname for Howard, said he remains excited about studying at the historic university. “We take pride at being at the Mecca!”

Howard University campus police Chief Marcus Lyles was asked about the investigation into the attack that was caught on video and showed a contracted university employee standing near the student who had been stabbed.

The video showed that person walking away from the young man’s motionless body.

“I took immediate and swift action after I reviewed the video. One of my officers has been put on suspension pending the investigation,” Lyles told WTOP. “The person in the video has been released” from their job, “and is no longer on our campus.”

Lyles said he is eager to welcome students back to campus, and that, “I need them to download our Bison Safe app, which will give them information during crisis, and I need them to know how to connect with us, how to call us when they’re in need.”

Lyles said the campus police are working with the Metropolitan Police Department in the investigation, and that it’s “very active.”

One of the things Lyles wanted to stress is that he doesn’t want to see the campus wall itself off from the Northwest neighborhood. “I’m a Washingtonian, I love this city,” he said.

One man on campus, an alumna there to attend a pinning ceremony, didn’t want to give his name but told WTOP he felt the university and Lyles have been transparent about the most recent violence, and that “they’re doing everything that they can to make sure the students are safe, but also still cultivating a relationship” with the community.

“That’s the delicate balance that we are trying to make sure we take here, and I think that’s the right approach,” Lyles said.

Adding that he wanted to directly address anyone who does harm to the students or campus community, Lyles told WTOP, “If you come to our campus, and you hurt our people, you’re really hurting yourself.”

He explained that Howard continues its long tradition of educating the lawyers, doctors, journalists and scientists of the future.

“We’re here to serve you in the long run,” Lyles said.

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Kate Ryan

As a member of the award-winning WTOP News, Kate is focused on state and local government. Her focus has always been on how decisions made in a council chamber or state house affect your house. She's also covered breaking news, education and more.

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