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John Harvard's Journal

The Kirkland House Shooting

September-October 2009

On May 18, Justin Cosby, a 21-year-old Cambridge resident, was shot in the basement of Kirkland House J entry; he died the following day (see Brevia, July-August, page 58).

Jabrai J. Copney, age 20, of New York City, turned himself in to Cambridge police on May 21, and was charged with murder a day later. He was arraigned on July 22 on five charges. A second man, Blayn Jiggets, age 19, was arrested in New York on June 9, and remained there in July, awaiting extradition proceedings; he was indicted on July 30 for murder. A third suspect, Jason Aquino, 23, of Manhattan, was arrested on July 30 and scheduled to be arraigned the next day.

The Middlesex district attorney indicated in statements and in the filing for Copney’s arraignment that Cosby was involved in selling marijuana, and that Copney and  Jiggets were on the scene (inside a locked, gated undergraduate residence) because they intended to rob him.

However the case ultimately unfolds, Harvard is involved beyond its role as the venue for the shooting. The Crimson reported text messages linking Copney to drug sales on campus; the prosector linked the suspects to two undergraduates, Brittany Smith ’09, of Lowell House, a friend of Copney, and to Chanequa Campbell ’09, of Kirkland House, Smith’s friend. Both were reportedly denied permission to graduate, and ordered off campus.

University and College officials have declined any detailed comment on the matter—the normal practice when students are involved in any kind of disciplinary proceeding, and all the more so when a criminal investigation is underway. A May 22 e-mail to the community from College dean Evelynn M. Hammonds observed that “The Middlesex County District Attorney made clear…that drugs were at the center of the events that brought Justin Cosby together with his assailants,” without making any link to sales to students. She noted her intention to “work with student leaders and others to address the nature and risks of illicit drug use on campus” and “to underscore the importance of safety and security practices for the entire College community.”

As of early August, when this issue went to press, there had been no further official word. Legal proceedings aside, the College would seem to have an urgent need to reinforce the proper use of IDs and gated entries—and to teach in vivid terms about the possibly deadly consequences of casual use of illegal controlled substances.