GSU president resolute on addressing campus violence 

Rick Gallot practically grew up at Grambling State University.

With a father serving as the town’s mayor and a mother leading GSU’s history department, Gallot attended school on the campus from kindergarten through his college degree. Gallot’s life has always revolved around the famous historically black university.

When his alma mater needed a new president in 2016, Gallot, an attorney and former state representative and senator, felt a calling to take on the role of leading the university so integral in his life.

Now the university president is facing arguably the most significant crisis of his tenure—two murders on campus in just four days.

In a Sunday afternoon press conference, Gallot said numerous officers had been brought to campus for Homecoming festivities to ensure a safe environment for the Tigers’ game against Texas Southern and other events. Extensive planning goes into each year’s Homecoming with involvement from agencies like the Lincoln Parish Sheriff’s Department and Louisiana State Police.

While a Homecoming-related event was occurring on campus, fights and shooting broke out nearby. In the early morning hours Sunday, one person was killed while seven others were injured including one critically. Only one of the injured was a student.

“Our campus community has worked tirelessly to keep our students and others safe for homecoming,” said Gallot during the press conference. “Yet, with all of our planning and coordination with our local, parish, regional, and state law enforcement partners, we still find ourselves grieving the loss of life and injuries just as too many communities in our country have experienced as well. Why would someone come to the campus of our Dear Ole Grambling and shoot innocent people?”

Gallot called on the campus and community to pray for the university.

“I’ve been in constant prayer since the shooting,” Gallot said. He cited 2 Chronicles 7:14 as the means for stopping the violence. 

Recalling the verse from memory, Gallot recited, “If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.”

In addition to announcing a 7-day period of fasting and prayer to heal the campus, Gallot stated limits to current campus activities would be forthcoming. He stated the counseling center was available and he had met with student leaders.

Gallot said GSU’s master plan includes some provisions for physical improvements for a safer environment. He added GSU’s Executive Cabinet would be examining options for keeping “outsiders” who cause violence off the campus. He cited blocking entrances to campus and setting curfews as possibilities but emphasized he did not want to hamper the educational experience of the school’s students who represent 40 states and numerous countries.

“Our students come here for an education and far too often it’s outsiders who have created these situations that have put life and limb in danger,” Gallot said. “That’s not why we’re here. That’s not what we’re about after 120 years, and so again, our priority is keeping our students safe.”

As of Sunday evening, officials had not released the name of the victims and no suspects had been arrested. A Louisiana State Police spokesman said no motive had been established yet, and no certainty the two deaths were related. 

A suspect is being sought in the first homicide on October 14. The investigation into both shootings remain under investigation by the State Police in cooperation with GSU Police and other agencies.

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