MOUNT VERNON — A solemn assembly of students, faculty and staff gathered Thursday morning at the R.R. Hodges Chapel Auditorium at Mount Vernon Nazarene University to hear a report of events that had occurred over the past 12 hours.
“We are in this together ... none of us goes alone,” said MVNU Chaplain Scott Peterson in his opening comments. “There are moments in life when tragedies happen, when not all goes as we plan. We want to make sure that all of us are on the same page,” said Peterson, before introducing MVNU President Daniel Martin who made an official statement to the campus community.
“I regret to inform everyone on the death of Michael Gehrett, who died Wednesday of a self-inflicted wound,” said Martin to the quiet chapel crowd. “Please pray for Mike’s family and friends. This is hard to understand and difficult to accept.”
Gehrett, 21, was a junior criminal justice major from Atwater.
The Knox County Sheriff’s Office had notified the MVNU Student Development Office Wednesday evening of reason to be concerned for Gehrett. Gehrett’s ex-girlfriend called the KCSO and reported she received a text message from Gehrett and was concerned for his safety.
According to Martin, it was after this discussion with the KCSO, that the decision was made to put the campus on lockdown.
“We moved to secure the campus for safety Wednesday evening,” said Martin. MVNU students were sent e-mails and text messages notifying them of a temporary lockdown, which was later lifted after 20 minutes when Gehrett was located.
Martin said the e-mail was sent for safety concern only, as few details were available at the time. The campus community was then informed of the special gathering at the chapel this morning.
Campus security officials were involved only with the on-campus safety of the students. The Mount Vernon Police Department was also on the scene once Gehrett’s vehicle was found.
Peterson stated he met with Gehrett’s mother this morning, while his father was returning home from a mission trip. “There are no good answers,” said Peterson. “In the midst of pain, sorrow and tragedy, the God we serve is with us, and will go before us.”
Peterson informed the students that there will be a special chapel service on Friday where they can come to pray, reflect or talk with friends and counselors. “Friends ... I’m sorry. This is not an easy moment. But I’m grateful for you. God is with us,” said Peterson.
As the ceremony closed, the crowd held hands while Peterson prayed, inviting those who wished to come forward, talk and pray.
News Staff Reporter George Breithaupt contributed to this story.