ATLANTA (AP) — A freshman at Fort Valley State University was stabbed to death after he came to the aid of some female students who were being harassed and groped by a man outside the school cafeteria, a Georgia Bureau of Investigation agent said Wednesday.
Donnell M. Phelps tried to intervene to help the three women Tuesday and ended up getting into a struggle with the suspect, former student Joseph Anthony Scott, GBI Special Agent J.T. Ricketson said.
Scott pulled a pocketknife and began stabbing Phelps repeatedly, Ricketson said at a news conference at the historically black university, about 29 miles southwest of Macon.
Authorities on Wednesday were seeking a murder warrant against Scott, 24, who was being held in the Peach County Jail following the attack.
When Phelps realized he was severely wounded, he ran toward the campus infirmary and collapsed on the ground outside shortly after 5 p.m. Tuesday, Ricketson said.
Meanwhile, Scott ran toward the campus' main entrance and knocked on the window of a small guard shack, Ricketson said.
The security officer inside, Ernest Johnson, was unaware of the stabbing and opened the door. Johnson was then stabbed multiple times, Ricketson said.
Fort Valley State's internship coordinator, Donavon Coley, was at the main gate and helped to separate Scott from the officer, Ricketson said. Coley then helped to restrain Scott until campus police arrived moments later to take him into custody, said Kenneth Morgan, the campus police chief.
Johnson was taken to a hospital and was in stable condition, school spokeswoman Pamela Berry-Johnson said Wednesday.
"He is going to recover from those injuries, but he was seriously injured," Ricketson said.
The GBI is still investigating, with help from campus police, Ricketson said. He added that authorities were in the process of filing two additional felony charges against Scott, who lives near the campus: aggravated assault and possession of a knife during a crime. It wasn't immediately clear whether Scott has a lawyer who could be reached for comment.
At Wednesday's news conference, Fort Valley State President Paul Jones said "we are just absolutely devastated."
"Words cannot describe the pain that we all feel in the Fort Valley State community," Jones said.
The violence was likely seen by several students, Ricketson said.
"We have a large list of witnesses who have potentially seen this," he said.
Grief counselors were on the campus and helping students, school officials said.
"We will do what families do in times of loss, we will gather together to support each other through this extremely difficult time," Jones said. "We will focus on ensuring that our students and our campus community have the support they need. Please keep our entire campus in your thoughts and prayers."
Phelps, 19, was an agriculture engineering technology student from nearby Marshallville, Georgia, who graduated from Macon County High School in 2015, school officials said.
As a high school junior, he got involved with Fort Valley State through a summer program aimed at helping minority students learn about agriculture and potential careers in that field, school officials said in a statement Wednesday afternoon.
His mentor in the summer program was Archie Williams, head of Fort Valley State's department of engineering technology and associated professor of agricultural and biological engineering.
"Donnell cared more about other people than he did about himself," Williams said in the university's news release.
"This is an extremely safe campus," Morgan said. "I've been here seven years and nothing of this magnitude has ever occurred since I've been here."
The stabbings happened just four days before the university's 75th annual commencement ceremony planned for Saturday on the campus.