Jackson State University was also the location of a much under publicized shooting incident in 1970
The time is May 14, 1970. It’s ten days after the infamous Kent State shootings in which four students were killed by the Ohio National Guard. About 75 students gather at Alexander Hall on the campus to protest the shooting.
Rumors begin to spread that the mayor of Fayette, Mississippi
, Charles Evers, ( brother of civil rights
leader Medgar Evers
, who was also killed) and his wife had been shot and killed. At about 9:30 pm, the riots begin.
During the course of the evening, several motorists, all white, call the local police and complain that a group of blacks were throwing rocks as they passed the street that bordered the campus. While some rocks were thrown at passing motorists, it was later confirmed that it was not done by the students.
Meanwhile, the rioting had escalated. Several fires were set and as firefighters arrived to combat the flames, they were greeted by a hostile and angry crowd who harassed them as they tried to contain the fires. The firemen, fearing for their safety, requested police
back up. Police respond to the call and along with National Guardsmen, cordon off a 30 block area around the campus. It should be noted that the National Guardsmen had been issued weapons but no ammunition
In all, about 75 local police and Mississippi State Police respond to the call. They however are armed with carbine
s, submachine gun
s, service revolver
s and some weapons of a personal nature. They manage to hold off the crowd until firemen put out the fires. After the firemen had left, the officers and state troopers advance on the crowd.
The students, in the face of the armed presence retreat back to the dormitory and congregate in to a thick knot. Insults are chanted and bricks are thrown at the officers from a distance of about 100 feet.. As fate would have it, someone either threw or dropped a bottle and the noise sounded like a gunshot. Simultaneously, a police officer was struck by a rock and went down.
Here’s where it gets sketchy. Some students’ claim that the police advanced on them, warned them, and then opened fire. Others say there was no warning and that police immediately opened fire. Yet another group of witnesses claim that the students were under the control of campus security when police opened fire. Police claim they heard gunshots from the dormitory and opened fire in the direction of the dormitory in self defense. Local television crews support the police claims that a shot was fired, but could not identify from which direction it came.
Anyway, at about 12:05 am, May 15, police open fire. It lasts for about 30 seconds before the order to cease-fire comes. When all is said and done, two students are dead and twelve others injured by gunfire. Other students require treatment for injuries suffered from shattered glass
The dormitory itself was riddled with gunfire. The FBI, called in to investigate, estimate that more than 460 rounds struck the building facing the riots. Every window in the five-story building is shattered. Further investigation reveals at least 160 bullet holes in the outer walls of the building .
As for the injured students, some were transported to the University Hospital about twenty minutes after the shooting stopped. Long enough for officers to pick up the shell casing of the spent rounds.
Shortly after the shooting stopped , police and state troopers leave the scene. They are replaced by National Guardsmen. Jackson city authorities claim that no city police took part in the shootings. The issue of the state police participation is never at issue.
In June of 1970
, President Richard M. Nixon
establishes a Commission on Campus Unrest. Thirteen days of public hearing begin later in the month in Jackson, Mississippi; Kent State, Ohio
,; Washington, DC
, and Los Angeles
. At the Jackson hearings, the administration, faculty, staff and students provide testimony. There are no arrests or convictions of anybody involved.