NEW YORK — An 18-year-old Barnard freshman was fatally stabbed just after nightfall Wednesday during a mugging in a park near the college’s Manhattan campus, the police and college officials said.
In a campuswide letter sent around 11 p.m., Sian Leah Beilock, Barnard’s president, identified the victim as Tessa Majors and said she had been killed in an armed robbery in Morningside Park.
“Tessa was just beginning her journey at Barnard and in life,” Beilock wrote. “We mourn this devastating murder of an extraordinary young woman and member of our community.”
Beilock said in the letter that she and Leslie Grinage, the dean of the college, had spoken with Majors’ parents, who were on their way to New York. She also urged “anyone in need” to take advantage of the college’s counseling services.
As a University community, we mourn the tragic loss of one of our students, Tessa Majors, and send our deepest condolences to her family and loved ones. Read the President’s letter to our Columbia-Barnard community: https://t.co/ZJsp9fT5F5 pic.twitter.com/jEDMbK0IFO
— Columbia University (@Columbia) December 12, 2019
The official police account of the crime offered few details. At about 5:30 p.m., officers with the New York Police Department responded to a report that a woman had been assaulted near West 116th Street and Morningside Drive, the police said.
When they arrived, the officers found an unconscious woman who had been stabbed multiple times. She was taken to Mount Sinai St. Luke’s Hospital, where she was pronounced dead, the police said.
No one had been arrested early Thursday, and the investigation was continuing, the police said.
— New York Post (@nypost) December 12, 2019
Walking on Broadway near the Barnard campus Wednesday night, Isabel Jauregui and Aja Johnson, both 20, said they had learned about the killing from campus news alerts.
Johnson, a Columbia student, said she had participated in an effort to clean up the park and improve its reputation.
“This is going to re-demonize the image,” she said.
Major crime in New York City was down about 1% this year through Dec. 1 compared with the same period last year, but homicides were up about 8%, according to Police Department statistics. There had been 298 killings by Dec. 1, compared with 275 at that point in 2018, police data showed.
Jauregui, a Barnard student who works on the Columbia Spectator campus newspaper, said students were on edge.
“My friend is throwing up in the bathroom,” she said. “She’s so scared.”
Niharika Rao, 19, and Layne Donovan, 18, two Barnard students, said the attack had left the campus shaken.
“Everybody knows each other,” Donovan said.
Rao recalled encountering Majors once while eating on campus.
“She has green hair,” Rao said. “I told her at Diana I liked her hair,” referring to the Diana Center Cafe.
Tristen Pasternak, a Barnard sophomore, was waiting near campus for a shuttle home late Wednesday. She said she was not completely surprised to hear that someone had been attacked in the park.
“I used to go through there,” Pasternak, 20, said. “It’s always had a weird vibe.”
This week is a so-called reading week for Barnard students, and many have been cramming for exams. Pasternak said that as she made her way around campus Wednesday, she could tell that people were learning of the attack from the expressions on their faces as they looked at their phones.
“It’s so horrifying” she said. “She should be going through finals like all of us.”