Campus mourns death of student

Tariq Shabazz holds a candle during a prayer in front of Pierce Ford Tower on Friday, September 13, 2013 to honor his son, Larry Thomas. “I can’t even say that these arrests bring comfort,” said Tariq Shabazz about suspects being taken into custody, “now these parents will have to go without a son as well.” Thomas was shot September 2, and died from his wounds a day later at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville. 

Jacob Parker

Tariq Shabazz, father of Louisville freshman Larry Thomas, is at a loss for words.

“Never in my wildest dreams would I have thought that my son would come to school and lose his life,” Shabazz said. “You think about college as an institution of higher learning, not a correctional facility.”

Shabazz spoke Friday night at a march from Cherry Hall to Pearce-Ford Tower in memory of his murdered son. It was the latest event in a still-unfolding saga, one that began two weeks ago.

On the night of Sept. 2, Alyssa Rite and her boyfriend, residents of Greenhaven Apartments, had just turned off their television when they heard bickering outside.

“We just thought it was the couple upstairs,” Rite said. “We opened the window and heard someone say, ‘I’ve been shot,’ so we ran outside.

“He [Thomas] had come outside. The guy was laying right there, up the stairs, and he was naked from getting out of the shower. The dude next door was leaned over him, trying to help him out and keep him awake ’cause he kept closing his eyes. Five minutes later, the cops got here. He was already really gray, though.”

WKU freshman Larry Thomas, of Louisville, was shot at the Greenhaven Apartments in Apartment 8F around 11:17 p.m., according to reports from the Bowling Green Police Department.

“No one heard anything,” Rite said, pointing at the apartment beneath Thomas.’ “No one heard a gun shot, even her, and she lives right underneath him.” 

Thomas was airlifted to Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville where he died later that night. 

The couple who lived in the apartment across from Thomas and helped him the night of the incident have since moved to a different city because of the murder, Rite said. 

Two days after the murder on Sept. 4, investigators arrested Louisville junior Siara Thompson, the ninth floor RA in Rodes-Harlin Hall. Thompson had been in the victim’s apartment less than an hour before his death, according to police reports.

BGPD established Thompson knowingly provided transportation to two 17-year-olds to Thomas’ apartment to purchase a half a gram of marijuana for $10. The minors were residents on Thompson’s floor, according to police.

Thompson was arrested and charged with two felony counts of second-degree unlawful transaction with a minor. Thompson’s student status is still pending and her case will go before a grand jury, according to the Bowling Green Daily News.

It would be a little more than a week after Thomas’s death, on the night of Sept. 12, that BGPD arrested Bradenton, Fla., freshman Dominique Wortham, 21, in Barnes-Campbell Hall.

According to a BGPD press release, Wortham confessed “after an extensive investigation” to shooting Thomas during a robbery. 

The following day a Paducah resident, Adriana Mason, 19, was arrested by the Paducah Police Department and also charged with the murder of Thomas. 

Both Wortham and Mason are currently housed in the Warren County Regional Jail on $1 million bonds. They will both appear in court at a preliminary hearing on Wednesday.

The death of Thomas has sparked a reaction from many students on campus, with two vigils and a walk held in his memory since the incident.

Louisville graduate student Ashlee Bradley and Thomas’ cousin, said she felt his depiction in the media wasn’t true to who he was.

“They brought up a lot about his past, and I feel like we should have been more focused on what Larry was now and what he was reaching for,” Bradley said of previous reporting in the Herald. “He had just signed up to be a member of the Campus Activities Board, he had joined Black Men at Western, he had spoken to me personally, because I’m a GA (graduate assistant) at Student Activities, about getting involved.”

Thomas was enrolled for fall classes at WKU, but was previously banned by the university for the spring semester after he was arrested in Pearce-Ford Tower in Nov. 2012 for trafficking a controlled substance and possession of drug paraphernalia. 

Bradley said Thomas was attempting to stay proactive on campus and in the community. She said he was in the process of turning over a new leaf.

“He had gotten in trouble for what he had done in the past, and it just kind of made him realize the opportunity that he had being here at WKU,” she said. 

Bradley said the march from Cherry Hall to Pearce-Ford Tower on Friday night wasn’t just about Larry but also about taking a stand against violence.

“The march here today is to celebrate Larry’s life but it’s also making people aware of the violence we have in the community,” she said. “The most important thing is standing against violence.”

However, Bradley said she isn’t naïve to the things that go on within campus.

“I was there not that long ago,” she said. “I know a lot more things that go on than our administrators, faculty and staff would like to think goes on.”

Shabazz also disagreed with the way his son was represented in the media the past couple of weeks.

“Larry wasn’t a thug,” he said. “He was a young man who was trying to pursue his dreams.”

Louisville native Shabazz came to WKU to participate in the march.

Because of the arrests, he said three families now have to go without their children.

“This young man and this young lady’s parents having to go without a son or without a daughter just like I am,” he said. 

He said Thomas’s sense of humor still stands out most in his mind.

“Larry always made me laugh,” he said. “Even when I was in the process of disciplining him, he turned it around and made it so humorous that you had no choice but to lower your guard.”

His son’s death, even if it was off campus, is confusing to Shabazz, who said college is supposed to be a place to make something of one’s self.

“I don’t know about the violence on campus, but I know the violence on campus affected the lives of my family,” he said. “Because we’re without a son, a grandson, a brother, an uncle, a nephew, a cousin.”