The message was clear the minute University of Texas President Gregory Fenves returned home on a plane Tuesday from a trip in Amarillo to personally address reports that the university was investigating a possible campus homicide.
Whatever happened near Waller Creek on Sunday night to the female victim was likely to rock the feeling of safety and security on the Austin campus and in this city for some time to come. The university, with its community of more than 70,000 students, faculty and staff, represents the physical center of our city and for many it is the emotional heart as well. So when tragedy strikes there, we all ache.
After turning over the investigation to the Austin Police Department on Wednesday and notifying the victim’s family, the university and investigators were ready Thursday to publicly name the victim. Haruka Weiser, an 18-year-old dance major from Portland, Ore., was murdered on her way home from the Winship Drama Building, according to police. Investigators are still looking for the suspect and have asked for the public’s help identifying a man on a bike in a video taken nearby.
Investigators were sparing with the details Thursday, though more is surely known to university administrators. What information they do have led Fenves to call for an overall security evaluation of the campus by the Department of Public Safety. The university has also increased patrols and is offering escorts for anyone on campus who feels unsafe moving around on campus.
Our hearts go out Weiser’s family, friends and the UT community. Having a child going off to college is a time of excitement and trepidation for any family. As Fenves accurately put it, the events of this week are a parent’s “worst nightmare.”
He went on to say, “The unthinkable brutality against Haruka is an attack on our entire family. Law enforcement is fully engaged to do everything to bring the perpetrator who committed this crime to justice.”
The video shown by Austin police at Thursday’s press conference shows an active street scene with pedestrians, buses and cyclists moving through the streets not far from where Weiser’s body was found.
To think that a life could be snuffed out in the midst of all that activity is sobering. We’ve written before about the distressing lot of women, who must look over their shoulder’s in dark places. Although this particular incident represents a first for the University of Texas campus, it only punctuates the grim reality that women, in particular must always be on their guard.
Fenves read a particularly poignant statement from the Weiser family at Thursday’s press conference.
Although Haruka loved to perform on stage she never sought the spotlight in her daily life. Perhaps the last thing she would want it to be the poster child for any cause. And yet, as we struggle to understand why she was killed, if her death can somehow make it safer for a young woman to walk home, if it will prevent another assault or murder, then at least we could find some meaning behind an otherwise senseless and tragic death. … No parent, brother, sister or friend should have to face this kind of sadness, this kind of loss.
The Weiser’s family’s grief should be our own. Rest in peace, Haruka Juliana Tsunemine Weiser. Rest in peace.