ATLANTA, Ga. (CBS46) -- The evening started with a special outdoor induction ceremony for freshman students, a rite of passage for the newest class at Clark Atlanta University.
Jeremiah Thomas was in attendance.
“It was kind of like a formal event and it was supposed to be just us getting inducted into Clark Atlanta University as freshmen,” Thomas told CBS46’s Hayley Mason. “It was a very great experience, a different experience because I am a transfer student and we didn’t have this at my old school.”
“The welcoming ceremony was supposed to be about the freshman being introduced to Clark and seeing how the illustrious Clark Atlanta University will be their home for the next four years,” said Armani Walker who is a sophomore at Clark Atlanta University. “They wanted everybody to be comfortable and get a feel for the campus.”
After the students were officially inducted into the class of 2023, as Clark Atlanta University Panthers, they geared up for one last celebration --a block party to kick off the new school year that started Wednesday. But that gathering ended tragically when a young man opened fire into the crowd of students who were outside of the Robert W. Woodruff Library at the Clark Atlanta University Promenade in the Atlanta University Center. The block party is an annual event, but it is not sanctioned by the university.
“It was supposed to be an event to celebrate the last night of freedom and unfortunately it ended in a tragedy, which is very traumatic for a lot of us students,” said Cyaira Place.
The two Spelman College students and two Clark Atlanta University students who were shot are recovering from their injuries. Police identify them as Erin Ennis, 18, of Powder Springs, Maia Williams-MClaren, 18, of Boston, Elyse Spencer, 18, of Rochester, New York, and Kia Thomas, 19. Police don’t have a hometown listed for Thomas.
The family of Elyse Spencer flew in fro New York early Wednesday morning. They say the teen is doing as well as can be expected at this time.
Atlanta Police released video of the suspect. It shows a male wearing a white t-shirt, gray sweat pants, a tan Gucci hat, and gray New Balance sneakers. Anyone with information about who he is can call Crime Stoppers at 404-577-TIPS. You can remain anonymous and could be eligible for a reward of up to $2,000.
“It kind of happened in front of me at first we just thought it was a toy gun,” Thomas said.
Campus police, Atlanta Police and university officials expressed their concern and vowed to find a suspect.
“I just feel like it's so disappointing because college is supposed to be a good experience for everyone,” Place told CBS46. “It's a good experience, and it's unfortunate that for their first night here they have to go into the school year knowing we had a school shooting. That’s traumatic,” she added.
Everyone there is now hoping whoever is responsible will be punished soon.
“We are all college students trying to get somewhere, trying to be somebody so just think about your actions,” Thomas said.
The following is a statement from the Atlanta University Center Consortium:
“The Atlanta University Center Consortium (AUCC) is aware of the shooting incident that occurred last night outside the AUC Library.
Our hearts and prayers go out to the students, their families and loved ones, during this extremely difficult time. They have the full support of the AUCC faculty, staff, students and alumni.
Please know that all threats to our schools or students are taken seriously and investigated thoroughly. We are working with the Atlanta Police Department (APD) investigation of last night’s incident.
All AUCC institutions will have police presence on-campus and throughout the surrounding areas. Collaborating with campus public safety officers, the AUC Library and APD, the AUCC will continue to forge stronger solutions to ensure the safety of our campus community.”
Spelman College President Dr. Mary Schmidt Campbell released the following statement:
“The Spelman College community awakened to the heartbreaking news of a shooting outside of Atlanta University Center Robert W. Woodruff Library. Two Spelman students and two Clark Atlanta University students were shot. We can report at this time that Spelman’s two students are recovering from their non-life-threatening injuries in a local hospital. The College is cooperating with the Atlanta Police Department in their investigation. We are also working with our Atlanta University Center partner institutions to review safety measures for the entire community. The safety of our students, faculty and staff is our No. 1 concern. Counseling and other support services are available at Sisters Chapel, the counseling center, wellness center and residence halls to support our students, faculty and staff during this difficult time. “