NEW YORK CITY -- Students at New York City’s Barnard College told Fox News they are “apprehensive” and the community is “pretty shaken up” Thursday after an 18-year-old freshman was stabbed to death Wednesday night at a nearby park.
Tessa Majors, a Barnard student, was discovered unconscious with “multiple stab wounds about the body” near a staircase in Manhattan’s Morningside Park around 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, police say. The president of the all-women school says she “was fatally injured during an armed robbery” attempt and investigators are now reportedly questioning two persons of interest in the case.
“It just makes me think about myself and what that means for me in the city because I love going out in the city and exploring and now I just feel more apprehensive towards doing that,” Natasha, a freshman biochemistry major, told Fox News outside one of the college’s entrances Thursday.
“I actually walked through the park that morning,” she added. “I walked up those stairs.”
Another Barnard student, who identified herself as Olivia, a political science major, said the mood there last night was “just kind of scary, because everyone was spread out around the entire campus and you don’t really want to walk anywhere anymore.”
The school Thursday positioned more security officers than normal next to its entrances, according to Malia, a sophomore biology major who described its tight-knit community of students as feeling “pretty shaken up.” Some professors, she said, have announced postponements of upcoming exams in the wake of the stabbing.
"It's horrible. We are all really saddened,” added another student.
Barnard College, which is affiliated with Columbia University – an Ivy League institution across the street from it – has an enrollment of 2,682 undergrads, 632 of which are first-year students.
“I did not know Tessa but I do remember having a meal with her during orientation and meeting her, and being like ‘oh my gosh, she’s so cool’” Natasha told Fox News. “Because everyone knows everyone – it’s such a small campus.”
As of early Thursday afternoon, police tape – and a heavy presence from the New York City Police Department – surrounded the crime scene blocks away.
Earlier this morning, investigative teams were observed combing the area of the park where the stabbing occurred. At one point, a detective leaned down and placed a small red cone behind a lamppost.
Watching the police activity unfold from above was Jake, a student at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs, who told Fox News that officers blocked him from entering the other side of the park after the stabbing last night.
“Two cop cars came up next to me and I was like ‘oh, can I go up the stairs’ and they said ‘no’,” he said. “They had just like swarmed around me … they were like ‘no, you can’t go up there, get out of the park right now.’”
Jake said he then took an alternate route around the park and talked to some officers on the other side who apparently were looking at evidence.
“It was just surreal to see this cracked phone with blood all over it,” he said.
An employee at Columbia University, which is the closer of the two institutions next to Morningside Park, described it as “a place where students, staff and faculty are either passing through or enjoying a nice outdoor lunch.”
“There's definitely a feeling of sadness and concern going around,” he told Fox News in an e-mail. “To hear about this happening so close to campus is devastating.”
Mayor Bill de Blasio, following the stabbing, tweeted Thursday that the NYPD will increase their presence in the area to “keep this community safe, arrest the perpetrators and ensure NOTHING like this can happen again.
“We’ve lost a young woman full of potential in a senseless act of violence,” he said. “I want every student and every member of faculty to know your city will be with you in the days ahead.”
Chief of Detectives Rodney Harrison told the New York Daily News that police are currently questioning two teenagers with their parents, in relation to the stabbing.
Police sources told the New York Post that the investigation is focusing on whether the attack is linked to past robbery patterns in the area and the August mugging of a 24-year-old man inside the park.
“They tell us very explicitly at orientation not to walk through the park” at night, Jake told Fox News, adding that he has ignored the warning in the past.
“But I’m not going to do that now.”