By Kyle Roberts and Malcolm Butler
Following Monday morning’s stabbing episode outside of the Lambright Intramural Center on the campus of Louisiana Tech University, Ruston mayor Ronny Walker stood alongside Ruston police chief Steve Rogers to offer more information to help combat a stream of misinformation and rumors.
Walker opened up with a prepared statement offering his condolences to the victims and their families along with praise for local law enforcement and first responders.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families during this very difficult time,” said Walker. “Law enforcement agencies responded swiftly to the incident, and the suspect, identified as a Louisiana Tech student, was apprehended without delay by university police. We are committed to working closely with the university and other authorities to ensure a thorough examination of this situation.
“We are grateful for the cooperation and coordination between the city’s law enforcement and emergency medical services, Lincoln Parish Sheriff’s Office, the university, and North Louisiana Medical Center in managing this situation.”
Walker confirmed after his statement that as of 4:00 p.m. on Monday, despite a TV station reporting a confirmed death earlier in the day, that there were no fatalities at the time of the press conference.
“I appreciate all the news outlets that helped this morning with getting the word out,” Walker said. “I really appreciate those that got the correct information out. And that’s the reason we’re having this press conference right now.”
Rogers spoke later that the suspect entered the Lambright Intramural Center in the morning at the time of the incident before the attack in the parking lot and that the weapon was a folding knife, around a four-inch blade. Rumors earlier in the day were that the weapon was a screwdriver rather than a knife.
“They have a knife that they’ve collected as evidence,” Rogers said. “From what I was told, the evidence says that this was used.”
Both Walker and Rogers also confirmed that the attack was random and that the suspect had a very minimal history with police.
“We had one reported incident with him,” Rogers said. “It wasn’t criminal; he was having some issues and we went and checked him out. He was fine at that time but no criminal side to it.”
Mayor Walker also emotionally spoke to the response from the Ruston community following the attack.
“As I stood there today at the emergency room and watched dozens of individuals come in and express their concern and well-wishes, it brings back brings you into the feeling that we are a very, very close knit family community,” Walker said. “And the university is the same way. The university is hurting now just like we are. But I would say to our people and our students, and I’m not just talking about Louisiana Tech, but Grambling State students also who live here, that we are going to continue to do what we’re doing. And this is a very random situation that happened. It can happen in any any community, any city, no matter how big or how small you are. But we’ll pull together like we always do. This is something that we will get through and work together and help each other.
“The main concern right now, I think, to all of us is the health and well-being of the three that were taken to the hospital. Also the fourth one, while she might not have had major injuries, the traumatic side of this is something that injured or injured her just as much. So for all four victims and their families and I will keep those in our prayers each day.”
Walker also emphasized that Louisiana Tech will hold a candle-light vigil at 6 p.m. tonight at the quad on Louisiana Tech’s campus and there will be a blood drive Thursday, Nov. 16 at Tolliver Hall from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Tech will also host group counseling sessions for students on the third floor of Keeney Hall for the remainder of the week.
“I want to take this time to emphasize the importance of mental health awareness,” Walker said. “It is critical that we come together as a community and state to support and promote mental well being. I urge anyone in need of assistance to utilize any resources available. The City of Ruston stands united in the face of adversity, and we remain committed to maintaining the safety and security of our community.”