July 14, 2023

Dear members of the University community,

I’m writing to you today in the aftermath of the tragic shooting death of Maxwell Emerson to provide an update on the plans being made to honor his life, the University’s efforts working with law enforcement, and how we are strengthening the security of our campus.

Mr. Emerson’s memorial service will be held this Monday, July 17, at 1 p.m. at Southeast Christian Church in his hometown of Crestwood, Kentucky. I encourage you to learn more here about his life, cut short at age 25. Mr. Emerson was a teacher, coach, and beloved mentor to students. The University plans to create a permanent memorial to him, with more details to come on that.

We are relieved by the swift arrest of the suspected perpetrator, who was identified in part by a witness who recognized him from surveillance footage provided by the University. We thank the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) and our Department of Public Safety (DPS) for their collaboration on this case.

DPS was first to the scene of the incident, rendering first aid to Mr. Emerson before D.C. Fire and EMS arrived. Our DPS and MPD, along with the Metro Transit Police and the U.S. Attorney's Office, worked — and will continue to work — closely together to foster a safer campus and community.

As an urban University community in the Brookland neighborhood, we are always mindful of safety concerns. Here are some steps that are underway to reinforce campus security:

  • Our DPS officers are increasing foot, vehicular, and bike patrols to raise visibility inside and along the perimeter of campus.
  • We will immediately begin to increase our armed officer presence on campus, and more DPS officers will be carrying authorized firearms. The necessary training, certifications, and credentialing have been ongoing, and we expect that there will be an armed DPS presence on every shift.
  • Additional contract security guards will be deployed around campus and its perimeter, including at the Metro stop and near the DuFour Athletic Center, to augment police and DPS officers.
  • New safety training materials are being developed to help remind students, faculty, and staff about resources available on campus to keep them safe.
  • Additional electronic keycard access points are being installed on the exterior of academic and administrative buildings to make certain that only authorized persons are entering those buildings (all residential buildings and some academic buildings already feature these).
  • We expect to hire a full-time director for emergency services by the beginning of the fall semester.
  • Additional DPS patrol vehicles are being put into service, enabling our officers to enhance their visibility while reducing unwanted activity on and around campus.
  • We will be installing devices designed to block classroom doors from opening in the event of emergencies and active threats.
  • The University completed its building address project, allowing first responders to quickly and directly find the fire, police, or health emergency when 911 is called.
  • The MPD’s Fourth District will continue its partnership with DPS and the University to continue delivering police services on and around campus.

These measures are in addition to the enhancements that have been either underway or implemented. For instance, there are now more than 600 surveillance cameras on campus, which is a nearly 700% increase since 2021. Emergency drills on campus, enhanced training for DPS officers, and more safety education sessions for the University community also add to these efforts to keep our campus safe, secure, and alert. We are also addressing overgrown vegetation to make cleaner lines of sight and transit and examining the campus after dark to ensure safety lighting is sufficient.

I am committed to doing all we can to protect our University community, and I will remain in communication with you as we learn more and make improvements.

Finally, let us return our thoughts again to the life of Mr. Emerson, and hold in prayer all who loved him.


Peter Kilpatrick, President