Around 3 a.m. on Sunday morning at Youngstown State University, a shooting occurred off campus at a private residence where members of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity lived. Jamail E. Johnson, a senior at YSU and a member of the fraternity, died after being shot in the back of the head and legs. Police did not release the names of suspects, but two men were arrested and charged with one count of aggravated murder and 11 counts of felonious assault.
The party developed late Saturday evening into the morning, and an altercation took place. Johnson played a peacekeeping role, and he asked those involved to leave. Nearly 50 partiers were at the residence when two men from the altercation returned with semi-automatic handguns and fired into the home from the open front door. Johnson died as a result, and 11 others were injured.
Police Chief Jimmy Hughes said, “We seldom have any problems at the university.” The campus is ranked one of Ohio’s safest universities.
Youngstown State University was established in 1908 in Youngstown, Ohio. There are over 15,000 students. The university has five IFC fraternities, four Panhellenic sororities, and six National Pan-Hellenic Council chapters.
Omega Psi Phi was founded at Howard University in 1911 and has 750 undergraduate chapters, according to the organization’s website. The fraternity is also known by its nicknames Ques or Q Dogs. Their colors are royal purple and old gold, and their motto is “Friendship is Essential to the Soul.” Omega Psi Phi was founded at Youngstown State as the Zeta Gamma Chapter on March 11, 1951.
This is a tragic story of a promising life lost to senseless violence. I wish the family, the chapter, and campus comfort and unity during this time. This is a time to mourn, but it is also a time to provide insightful reflection to ensure other fraternities can learn from this tragedy.
First, fraternity men need to be aware of the company they keep. Fraternity men strive to be the elite leaders, scholars and role models on campus. This isn’t possible if they keep company with unsavory characters. In fairness, I do not know if that played a part in this instance, but it is a good time to reiterate this point.
Second, perception becomes reality. It only takes one unfortunate circumstance to get a label that you cannot get rid of. A fraternity on my campus had a shooting occur while I was in school. Students stayed away from that fraternity’s social functions for a long time because of that instance. The perception was that going to that house wasn’t safe, and that became the reality for a lot of students.
Finally, fraternities need to draft emergency response plans. When major crises occur, it is best to have a procedure on how to handle it appropriately. There needs to be a list of critical phone numbers (chapter advisor, Greek advisor, key alumni, national headquarters) of people to call to ensure that the situation is handled properly. When tragedy strikes, no one is going to be in the right frame of mind to react properly. It is imperative that your fraternity develops a plan beforehand.
My last thought is I don’t think it is fair to label this incident as a ‘fraternity shooting’ even though that is what the media is calling it. Johnson’s membership in Omega Psi Phi doesn’t seem really related to the shooting itself. There is no evidence that this was a fraternity function, and labeling it such is unfair to Omega Psi Phi and all fraternity men on Youngstown’s campus.