The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

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St. John’s community reacts to recent gun violence

Students and faculty alike are mourning the recent deaths of St. John’s students Tiarah Poyau and Arshell Dennis, as well as alumna Karina Vetrano.

Poyau, 22, a graduate student of the Peter J. Tobin College of Business, was shot and killed in the early hours of Sept. 5 in the midst of the J’ouvert celebration in Brooklyn, according to the NYPD.

On Aug. 14, 19-year-old Dennis, a journalism major and rising junior, was fatally shot while visiting his family in Chicago only hours before his flight back to New York City. According to the Chicago Police Department, the shooting was most likely a case of mistaken identity or in connection to gang activity in the area.

According to the NYPD, Vetrano, 30, was sexually assaulted and murdered shortly after going for a jog near her home of Howard Beach, Queens, on Aug. 2.

In the wake of these tragedies, students’ feelings of shock and grief have become entangled with feelings of unease.

Gabrielle Cudjoe, a junior and regular attendee of J’ouvert, was present the same night Poyau was killed. She says that the festival’s sole purpose is to celebrate Caribbean culture, not to give people an opportunity to air their grievances through violence.

“No one’s just walking around with a gun hanging out,” Cudjoe said. “Everyone’s just trying to dance and have fun and celebrate the culture.”

Cudjoe was participating in the parade when Poyau was fatally shot.

“People were sprinting down the parade runway, trying to get away… I didn’t know what was going on at the time,” she said. “I think I was just running, unsure.”

Cudjoe was not aware of the identity of the slain woman until a few days later.

“It’s just shocking, because I’ve been here for three years and it had never been quite this bad,” she said of violence against St. John’s students.

“On top of the amount of deaths, it was this close to campus. It’s nerve-racking, I can’t be sure of my safety anymore. In general, a gun doesn’t fire itself—there should be more regulation on the kind of people who can get guns,” she added.

Timica Sinclair, a junior, was also present at J’ouvert during the shooting.

“Unfortunately, due to outsiders who are not accustomed to the festivities that take place every Labor Day weekend, every year someone gets hurt,” she said. “Those who attend the events who are not raised in the culture tend to ruin the events for others.”

Sinclair believes St. John’s should put more effort into heightening students’ awareness of potentially unsafe situations.

“I think there should be some kind of awareness speech given to the school because these are not the only issues that have occurred,” she said. “Every weekend we get emails stating someone was robbed or flashed or any other number of things.”

St. John’s Division of Student Affairs sent out an email Monday night advising all students to take precautions when off campus, including “traveling in groups, remaining alert, and minimizing high-risk behavior.”

She added, “I honestly feel safe… I’m a native New Yorker, so I know my city well. I know where and where not to be and I have a strong security system.”

According to data released by the NYPD this past June, incidences of gun violence have sharply decreased from 2015, which saw a 19.5% increase in homicides within its first five months.

“As of this moment, New York City finds itself experiencing a significant decline in shooting incidents. Unlike other large cities across the country, New York has seen a decrease in both shootings and homicides for the current year-to-date period,” said First Deputy Commissioner Benjamin Tucker during the June 6 press conference.

Despite this drop in overall crime, and new security guidelines from Public Safety, such as Active Shooter Training, the loss of life the St. John’s community has experienced this year is devastating.

“I have no sense of security anymore,” said Leanne Palisoc, a sophomore.

“Since people have weapons, other people feel inclined to have weapons… Why aren’t there more policies to help control ownership of weapons? I definitely think it’s a nationwide problem,” continued Palisoc. “I always bring a friend and constantly look over my shoulder. It’s very unsettling, and I don’t want to be living this way for the rest of my life.”

New York City has one of the most restrictive gun policies in the nation, requiring NYC handgun licenses for all handguns and permits for rifles and shotguns.

According to data released from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives in 2014, many illegal guns that have been recovered were trafficked from other states with less prohibitive gun policies.

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About the Contributor
Ariana Ortiz, Features Editor
Ariana Ortiz is a senior majoring in journalism. She began her journey with the Torch last year, starting as a staff writer and then the Assistant News Editor. She aims to make the most of her time as features editor by not only making the Torch a primary news source for students, but also for the immediate community surrounding St. John’s. Have any questions? Email Ariana at [email protected]
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