Clark Atlanta stops classes, midterms for week after fatal shooting

The school also had a two hour lockdown Sunday after shots were fired near a residence hall.
Clark Atlanta University.

Clark Atlanta University.

Clark Atlanta University will not hold classes this week and has postponed mid-semester exams until after spring break.

The academic pause is intended to give students time to focus on their health and wellbeing following the Feb. 28 shooting death of sophomore Jatonne Sterling, 20, near campus.

The university’s president, George T. French, Jr., notified students in a Sunday message that this week, March 6-10, would be designated as “wellness days for the entire student body.”

Clark Atlanta University student Jatonne Sterling, 20, was fatally shot Tuesday near campus. Photo courtesy of Ernest Radcliffe

Credit: Photo courtesy of Ernest Radcliffe

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Credit: Photo courtesy of Ernest Radcliffe

Also on Sunday, just after 8:10 p.m., Clark Atlanta’s dorms were put on a roughly two-hour lockdown after shots were fired near Beckwith Hall, a campus residence.

A Clark Atlanta spokeswoman said that Atlanta police responded to the incident. No injuries were reported. Atlanta police and Clark Atlanta’s chief of police worked together to give the all-clear.

“Clark Atlanta University Public Safety, Fulton County Sheriff’s Office, and the Atlanta Police Department will continue heavy patrols in the area,” the spokeswoman said in a late Sunday email. “This is all the information that we have at this time.”

Atlanta police on Thursday announced the arrest of Keontay Holliman-Peoples, 25, on felony murder and other charges in connection with the fatal shooting of Sterling, a baseball player from Chicago. Holliman-Peoples is not a student at the university, police said, but the two men knew each other. Police said last week they were also seeking a third man who was at Tuesday’s scene.

The shooting took place in a parking lot behind a Catholic campus ministry.

Since then, some Clark Atlanta students have expressed concerns about safety on and around campus.

One online petition with nearly 1,000 signatures calls for Clark Atlanta to create “a closed campus culture” and demands a “properly safe and secure environment from the city of Atlanta.” Another petition, with a couple hundred signatures, asks for a new security booth, more training for campus police and additional officers and increased patrols.

Clark Atlanta canceled classes Thursday and held a town hall for students on Friday. Grief counselors have been and will continue to be available.

In his Sunday message to students, French described Sterling’s death as a “tragic loss.”

“It will be beneficial to pause our busy schedules in order to begin to heal as a community and remember why Clark Atlanta University is here,” he wrote. “We’re here for one another to persevere and grow through difficult times. It’s who we are.”

The school’s spring break is scheduled for March 13-17. The scheduling change means students will take exams when they return the following week, March 20-24.

French said administrators are working on “a more extensive mental health program,” that students will help develop. He also said the university will provide students with regular updates about improving public safety, emergency processes and protocols.