One of the nation's largest historically Black academic centers mourned Thursday for a 19-year old student killed by a stray bullet as she walked on campus with friends.
Police said Jasmine Lynn of Kansas City, Mo., was struck in the chest just after midnight Wednesday when at least six shots were fired during a fight at Clark Atlanta University.
Lynn was a sophomore at Spelman College, one of four adjoining campuses comprising Atlanta University Center along with Clark Atlanta University, Morehouse College and Morehouse College of Medicine.
Her mother, Constance Franklin, told Kansas City television station KCTV5 Thursday that her daughter was a "comical, loving and nurturing" young woman who was "the life of the party." She said Lynn, who was a straight 'A' student in high school and had a 3.8 GPA at Spelman, was the first in her family to go to college.
"For me to be a low-income, single mother, that was an honor," Franklin said.
Jerome Jones, a Clark Atlanta student who was with Lynn, was hit by a bullet in the wrist, treated at a hospital and released, police said.
"One of the friends actually heard the gunshots, actually saw the weapon and told her to get on the ground," Atlanta Police Lt. Keith Meadows said. "As she was getting on the ground, she got shot in the chest."
College officials and police are unsure whether students from any of the four campuses were involved in the fight that led to the shooting. Police were questioning witnesses and talking with a "person of interest," Meadows said.
For now, police are looking for one suspect, though investigators have not ruled out the possibility of more than that.
Police said security cameras probably captured the gunfire but they do not yet have a clear description of the shooter.
Hours after the crime scene tape was cleared from the street outside several Clark Atlanta dorms, students hurried across the campus complex in a morning rain. Security guards could be seen lowering the flag to half-staff on Spelman's quad.
An impromptu memorial service was held at Sisters Chapel on the Spelman campus, where students cried and held each other as President Beverly Tatum addressed them for the first time since the shooting hours earlier.
"I know this is very unsettling for all of us. But this is the kind of horrible incident that could have happened anywhere," Tatum said to the tearful students.
She said Lynn's family was "devastated" by the incident and will help college officials plan a more detailed memorial service later.
Lynn's friend, Julian Sherard, described her as a "beautiful, loving" person who liked playing one-on-one basketball, shopping and spending time with her friends. Sherard said the two met in May had been hanging out frequently since she returned to the Spelman campus a few weeks ago for the fall semester and he had recently introduced Lynn to his family.
"She was such a sweet person," said Sherard, a student at Atlanta Metropolitan College. "I let her meet one of my grandmothers on Sunday. My grandma has been crying all day."
According to her MySpace profile, Lynn was a psychology major who loved sports.
"I am a very fun person. I like to keep everybody laughing and I get along with everybody!" she wrote on her profile.
Some students talked about the shooting as they walked to class.
"I got a text about it this morning from a friend," said Spelman student Safiya Braithwaith, 20, who said she had seen Lynn on campus but did not know her. "I started thinking about her family. Their child just started school last week, and all of a sudden, she's gone."
The university complex is set in one of Atlanta's tougher neighborhoods. The campuses are so close it's often hard to tell where one ends and another begins. Students commonly cross between schools to visit each other and can take courses on each other's campuses.
The area has had some problems with safety, especially at Clark Atlanta, where the campus is more open than the gated streets of Spelman and Morehouse. In 2006, students pushed for closing the campus after two people were shot on or near the college.
Clark Atlanta President Carlton Brown said at a news conference Thursday that he is working with city officials to close off streets that run through the campus in hopes of making it more safe. But he stressed that the shooting could have happened on any of the urban campuses in Atlanta.
"The matters we are addressing here are the same issues on any college campus in America, particularly those in urban areas," he said. "Georgia Tech is no safer than Clark Atlanta University. Georgia State is no safer than Clark Atlanta University."
Both Clark Atlanta and Spelman are providing grief counselors to students who need to talk about Lynn's death, administrators said. And Spelman is leaving its chapel open for students to hold prayer services.