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'He was a good guy' | SAU community in shock over fatal on-campus shooting

Just hours after 21-year-old Joshua K. Smith was killed in the campus parking lot, students arrived for a tragic beginning to the start of their fall semester.

MAGNOLIA, Ark. — One student has been killed and another injured after an early morning shooting Tuesday in the main parking lot of the Southern Arkansas University campus.

Joshua K. Smith, a 21-year-old senior majoring in industrial engineering, died at the scene. The other student is stable at an area hospital.

It was a tragic beginning to the start of the fall semester with hundreds of students filling the same parking lot hours later for a long-awaited return to classes amid the coronavirus pandemic.

"We are, as a campus, completely heartbroken by what has happened," said Dr. Trey Berry, the university president.

Berry relayed what university police had released so far. Smith and two other students who lived off-campus drove to Reynolds parking lot just before 1 a.m. They met two other people, not connected to the school, and after a "brief discussion," someone fired gunshots.

Neither Dr. Berry or police had any information on motive. If it was something bad, it would surprise Smith's Engineering professor.

"I got to know him somewhat. He was a good guy," said Dr. Sam Heintz, the chair of SAU's Engineering Physics Department. "He worked hard. He had a job outside of school. I thought he was a good guy."

"I was a little bit scared," said Dawsyn Smith (no relation), a junior Agriculture Business major. "Just that it was hard to think that something so bad could happen at a place that I like to call home."

Smith chalked up her reaction to another punch from 2020 and shock to see the words "campus shooting" hit so close to home.

"We're mourning for one of our own, which is hard as it is, plus the addition tragedy of COVID-19 and the stress that puts on, it's all hard," she said.

Dr. Berry says police quickly determined no lock-down would be needed and plans went forward to resume classes.

"We are keeping our campus safe. Our law enforcement do believe that this was an isolated incident," he said. "Whenever you have something like this, there's shock and surprise and there's fear. And we're trying our best to relieve any fear that's there."