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A smiling Thomas Meixner
Thomas Meixner

Meixner family GoFundMe page

Professor Thomas Meixner’s dying words, according to a University of Arizona faculty report on his murder, were “I knew you were going to do this!”

The report argues that many at the university should have known Murad Dervish, an expelled graduate student, was dangerous—long before he allegedly shot Meixner, chairman of the Hydrology and Atmospheric Sciences department (HAS), multiple times in his own workplace.

Yet, the report says, multiple parts of the university repeatedly failed to effectively respond. It says the situation could have been even worse, because Dervish allegedly sought out four HAS faculty members that day, and police found two handguns and more ammunition in his vehicle.

“Until his arrest after the murder, Dervish harassed four HAS faculty members, a female undergraduate student and a Dean of Students (DOS) administrator,” says the report, released Wednesday.

“During the relevant period, from November 2021 to the murder in October 2022, the impacted HAS members persistently contacted and interacted with DOS, the Office of General Counsel (OGC) and the University of Arizona Police Department (UAPD) to report about the harassment and verbal threats, as well as to relay their concern that their lives and the lives of others were in jeopardy.”

The month before the shooting, the report says, UAPD wrote in a criminal report on Dervish’s alleged threats that “there is no indication at this time that Dervish intends to return to campus.” That was despite earlier reports to UAPD of Dervish being on campus, the faculty report says.

“While waiting for the university to take measurable action,” the faculty report says, “HAS members described ways they took matters into their own hands in managing personal safety; examples, such as purchasing a bullet-proof vest, relocating offices, temporarily changing residences, installing home security systems, possessing non-lethal weapons while on campus and keeping a loaded gun while at home, demonstrate the state of immense fear and a lack of university responsiveness.”

As far back as January 2022, HAS leadership pursued moving courses online for safety, the report says. The next month, a HAS leader wrote that students were moved out of a classroom and door combination codes were changed.

At one point, the report says, “OGC advised HAS leadership that sharing information about the risks that Dervish posed might violate privacy laws.” Yet, during a news conference the day of Meixner’s death, the UAPD police chief said, “Moving forward, if you see something, say something,” the report says.

Dervish currently faces multiple charges, including first-degree murder. The Pima County Attorney’s Office said his trial is scheduled for this fall.

“The lack of a central risk management system and the fragmentation of responsibilities related to violence risks resulted in institutional focus on legal risks and the neglect of violence risks,” the faculty report says.

It says it’s an interim report. Its final paragraph warns against responding with “securitization.”

“As expressed by community members, increased screening and surveillance are not sufficient answers to feeling safe on campus, especially given that marginalized community members are disproportionately profiled and policed amidst securitization,” it says. “Thus, we strongly advise against such securitization and encourage greater responsiveness to students and employees’ safety concerns, needs and wellbeing. Recommendations and considerations toward achieving this aim will be further discussed in the finalized report.”

The report is from the General Faculty Committee on University Safety for All. Leila Hudson, the university’s chair of the faculty, said she formed it the month of Meixner’s death.

The university declined interviews Wednesday, and it encouraged people to await the report it has commissioned itself. The university criticized the faculty report.

“It is not the comprehensive and exhaustive review that the university commissioned its outside safety and security experts, PAX Group LLC, to conduct following the October 5 tragedy,” the university wrote. “Rather, it represents the work of a subset of faculty that has reached sweeping conclusions based in large part on misleading characterizations and the selective use of facts and quotations. Although several university administrative and service units did meet briefly with the ad hoc faculty committee about general processes, they did not engage in detailed discussions about the events leading up to the October shooting as the report implies.”

It said the PAX report “will contain the assessment of experts based on countless hours of interviews and a thorough review of all relevant information and documentation.”

On Oct. 10, university president Robert C. Robbins referenced “an initial report, including recommendations, due to me within 75 days.”

The faculty report says UAPD took “nearly 10 months to file a report with the Pima County Attorney’s Office, while HAS victims remained unaware of the contents of said report. Additionally, UAPD imprudently speculated that Dervish would not return to campus, despite several accounts of Murad violating legal orders as reported to the UAPD by HAS victims and community members.”

The report says the police department did charge Dervish in April with two misdemeanor threat charges, but those related to alleged threats against an administrator.

Enraged over the denial of information for his upcoming expulsion hearing, which followed his alleged outburst against Meixner over a midterm grade and antisemitic and anti-Asian remarks in emails to HAS faculty, Dervish allegedly emailed an unnamed Dean of Students Office administrator, the report says.

“If you don’t, I promise the consequences are going to be absolutely catastrophic,” he allegedly wrote, and “I don’t think you have any clue who you are dealing with but you are about to find out and I really don’t think youre [sic] going to like it.”

But the Pima County Attorney’s Office decided not to proceed with the charges, UAPD closed the case and “by summer 2022, UAPD had not submitted a criminal report against Dervish to the Pima County Attorney’s Office on behalf of the HAS faculty victims or the female student victim facing ongoing harassment.”

In September, the month before Meixner’s killing, UAPD filed a criminal report citing “nine counts of threat(s) against one HAS professor and 11 counts of threat against the HAS associate department head,” the report says, after that unnamed individual sent an email saying this:

“As I have said not [sic] to you all in documented e-mail communications to OGC , UAPD and DOS now several times, I am of the strong opinion that all relevant law enforcement investigatory authority should be brought to bear in this case. That would include even if Mr. Dervish has moved out of state. That is simply beyond my power to do, as an individual and private citizen. I will note I have done everything I possibly can in my capacity to protect myself and my family and seek legal recourse as an individual—but to no avail.”

According to the faculty committee, UAPD wrote in the new criminal report that “these issues were not originally addressed criminally because there was an ongoing administrative appeal process that was taking place and staff members wanted that process to resolve prior to taking legal action.” It’s unclear whom these “staff members” who wanted to wait were.

And, the committee writes, that criminal report said,

“Due to the threatening comments that Dervish has made over the last several months, staff within the department are on edge and there is an underlying level of concern that he may try and show up on campus and cause harm to those he feels are responsible for his dismissal. While the concerns from the staff are real and warranted, there is no indication at this time that Dervish intends to return to campus.”

Meixner’s family, the committee writes, said the Pima County Attorney’s Office didn’t review this new criminal report, the one the month before the killing, until after the murder, “stating that this report came in a ‘batch packet’ with many other on-campus misdemeanors (e.g., underage drinking). UAPD did not have an issuing appointment with PCAO, nor did they verbally communicate the urgency of this charge as a case necessitating immediate action.”

“The Meixner family quote is accurate,” Pima County attorney Laura Conover said in an email. “PCAO can confirm that no attempts were made by the law enforcement agency to link the two cases together, to provide any context or to bring this to our attention with any sense of urgency. The reports in April and September were mailed in a normal batch of campus misdemeanors, which meant the reports went into the queue at the bottom of the COVID backlog of non-arrest misdemeanor cases, as is standard practice.”

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