MIDDLETOWN, Conn. (AP) — Police on Thursday urged Wesleyan University and local Jewish leaders to be “extra vigilant” after concluding that a man suspected of fatally shooting a Wesleyan student at a bookstore may be targeting the school and Jews.
Officials said they had launched a nationwide manhunt for 29-year-old Stephen Morgan. Authorities believe that Morgan disguised himself with a wig and shot 21-year-old Johanna Justin-Jinich, a junior from Timnath, Colo., at her job at a cafe inside Broad Street Books, a popular bookstore.
Investigators uncovered a connection between Morgan and Justin-Jinich, and believe the shooting was not a random act, Middletown Police Chief Lynn Baldoni said.
Evidence also “suggests that Mr. Morgan may be focused on the Wesleyan University campus as well as the Jewish community,” Baldoni said at a news conference Thursday. “Investigators have been in contact with Wesleyan University and leaders of the Jewish community, urging both to be extra vigilant.”
She would not elaborate and did not take questions.
Police maintained a heavy presence Thursday on the normally busy campus, located in this central Connecticut city of 48,000, but many doors were locked and the grounds were barren of students.
University officials urged students to remain indoors and staff to stay home. Spring classes have already concluded and finals have not yet begun.
“We think we are able to keep our students safe and we are working hard to do so,” Wesleyan President Michael Roth said.
Police described the gunman as armed and dangerous and released a surveillance photo taken inside the bookstore of a thin, bearded man they believe is Morgan. Authorities didn’t know if Morgan was still in the Middletown area, and said he has past connections to New York, Colorado and Massachusetts.
Local police are working with Connecticut state police and the FBI, Baldoni said.
Justin-Jinich would have graduated next year from Wesleyan, a private liberal arts school in central Connecticut with about 3,000 undergraduate and graduate students.
She was a 2006 graduate of the Westtown School, a private Quaker boarding school 25 miles west of Philadelphia. Westtown Head of School John Baird said he spent much of Wednesday informing people that the victim was Justin-Jinich, an honor student who participated in tennis and dance in her high school years.
Associated Press writers Dave Collins in Hartford and John Christoffersen in New Haven contributed to this report.