Freshman theater and dance major Haruka Weiser had her entire life in front of her, but sadly that life was cut short on Sunday night. She was walking back to her dorm after leaving the drama building, and she even texted her roommate saying she was on her way. When she didn’t make it home, her roommate reported her missing Monday morning. That’s when University officials discovered her body in Waller Creek near the Alumni Center. The case was immediately turned over to the Austin Police Department and treated as a homicide investigation.
UT President Gregory Fenves called her death a “brutal murder” that showed “unthinkable brutality.”
“My heart and our hearts go out to the victim and the family,” said Fenves.
The entire UT community gathered in East Mall Thursday to celebrate her life. The UT Tower (which is occasionally lit orange to celebrate UT achievements) went dark last night in honor of Haruka.
— Cassandra Jaramillo (@cassandrajar) April 8, 2016
— Marshall Tidrick (@Marshalltidrick) April 8, 2016
Police released a video at a press conference of a suspect walking a women’s bicycle at 10 p.m. around the area near where Haruka was killed and again at 11 p.m. They described the suspect as a six-foot-tall black man carrying a backpack and asked for anyone with information about the man to come forward.
This morning an arrest was made in connection with Haruka’s murder. Austin firefighters responded to a small fire involving a backpack, according to a source for NBC News. The Austin-American Statesman reported that some of Haruka’s belongings were recovered from the scene of the fire. The Statesman reports that police arrested a 17-year-old man and the police fully intend to charge him with this horrific crime, at which time his identity will be revealed.
My heart goes out to my alma mater and the family and friends of Haruka Weiser. She was too young and full of life to pass in such a way as this. Austin Police Department is working tirelessly to bring justice to Haruka and all who knew her and loved her, and I hope that justice is swift and that Haruka can finally rest in peace. .
UPDATE: 04/08/2016 11:11 a.m.: The suspect has been identified as homeless 17-year-old Meechaiel Criner. Austin Police Department Chief Art Acevedo says that he was in possession of the red and pink bike and had a bag that closely resembled Haruka Weiser’s. They will be charging him with first-degree murder.
UTPD Chief David Carter says “Our role is to keep our campus safe,” and that this incident has them redoubling their efforts.
Although knowing the killer is in custody and will be charged is a relief, it is shocking that this is what it had to come to for UT and the APD to address the homeless population problem near UT campus. To put this in perspective, there are so many homeless people near campus that they are affectionately (or not so affectionately) referred to as “drag rats,” because they usually set up camp on Guadalupe street (our Main street) AKA “The Drag,” right across from campus. As a student at UT, I don’t remember a single day where I didn’t walk past homeless people on my way to class. It was always a little off-putting, but after a certain point, it just became the norm. I’m sure many UT students, including myself, thought they were harmless. This incident proved us all wrong.
I hope this tragic death encourages UT and APD to do a better job of keeping students safe and finally address this important issue.
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