Student dies in shooting at Liberty University women’s dorm

Monogram of Liberty University on side of Candlers Mtn.; Lynchburg Va.
Monogram of Liberty University on side of Candlers Mtn.; Lynchburg Va.

Photo by Tim Ross

Monogram of Liberty University on side of Candlers Mtn.; Lynchburg Va.

(RNS) A Liberty University student was shot and killed by a campus officer during a shooting at a Liberty women’s dorm Tuesday (Nov. 19) morning.

Shortly before 4:15 a.m, the student and the LU official were engaged in a “physical altercation,” according to the local newspaper.

Police in Lynchburg, Va., identified the dead 19-year-old student as Joshua Hathaway, of Lubbock, Tex. Police said the officer, who was unidentified, was taken to an area hospital for treatment and was released.

“Joshua Hathaway, a Liberty University student, told the security officer he had been robbed and someone stole his vehicle. The security officer then began to investigate Hathaway’s complaint but Hathaway then pulled out a hammer from his clothing and assaulted the officer,” according to a search warrant affidavit written by Lynchburg police Det. Collin Byrne provided by Liberty to RNS.

The Liberty officer fired two shots at Hathaway, hitting him at least once, which killed him. Officers found the student’s car in a nearby parking lot and are unsure why he said it was stolen. Hathaway’s roommate said he “had been displaying unusual behavior recently,” saying he had been having academic and financial trouble, according to the report.

Liberty policy is that men are not allowed in female residence halls. The all-women’s dorm is off campus. One student estimated that the dorm is five floors and holds about 200 students.

Liberty has provided the following statement:

“Liberty University confirms initial reports that there was an altercation between a Liberty University Emergency Services Officer and a male student that led to a shooting last night at a women’s-only residential hall (Residential Annex II) that is under investigation by the Lynchburg Police Department. The entire campus, including Annex I & II, are open and operating as normal.”

All university officers carry firearms, said Liberty spokesman Johnnie Moore. There are more than 45 officers, and Liberty University requires an additional 24-36 hours of training for all officers, requiring recertification twice annually.

Liberty made news earlier this year in an effort to increase campus safety. Its board of trustees approved a new policy allowing students and faculty members with permits to carry concealed weapons on campus, though concealed weapons are not allowed in dorms.

Liberty, the nation’s largest private Christian university, was founded by the late Rev. Jerry Falwell and is based in Lynchburg, Va. It describes itself as the largest university in Virginia, with more than 100,000 residential and online students.

“The Liberty University community is deeply saddened by this tragic event and is prayerfully supporting all those impacted,” president Jerry Falwell Jr. said in a statement.

About the author

Sarah Pulliam Bailey

Sarah Pulliam Bailey is a national correspondent for RNS, covering how faith intersects with politics, culture and other news. She previously served as online editor for Christianity Today where she remains an editor-at-large.


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  • The shooting was done by a “Liberty University Emercengy Services” officer, not some staff member with a concealed carry license.

  • @spulliam, Is this reporter’s note about the approval of concealed carry a non-sequitur, or does the reporter have information that concealed carry might have been involved? That line, standing alone, is horrible reporting. Either it is relevant information, in which case the reporter should include the facts that make it relevant, or it is not, in which case its inclusion is likely to cause misunderstanding. Please update this report.

  • Thank you for reiterating that, people are incredibly ignorant. Hilarious how much people instantly make that assumption, clearly need to get out into the real world! Ha.

  • Liberty just released an update that states the male student attacked the officer. What was he doing in the female dorm at 4 am? Why do you reveal your bias and disdain for our second amendment rights by adding the line about LU allowing concealed carry on campus? Poorly done, Sarah.

  • Hey everyone, thanks for your comments. I included the line about concealed weapons because I thought it was relevant to include a change in policy on campus safety, self protection, guns, etc. If it happened 10 years ago, it wouldn’t have been relevant. I was noting it because it just happened this year. I didn’t say it caused the incident at all. My job is to gather all relevant information, and let readers decide how to interpret it. Thanks for weighing in.

  • This is a very tragic incident, and it appears LU is handling it quite well. I’d like to reiterate with the rest of the folks that the concealed carry policy of campus has nothing to do with the story. The officer was an Emergency Services Officer commissioned by the local police department, and he was carrying a sidearm for the same reason all police officers do. Thus, it was not concealed, and had nothing to do with the policy. Thus, the inclusion is as completely irrelevant now as it would be if the policy happened 10 years ago. Thanks for paying attention to your article, though.

  • Definitely a tragedy. My prayers are with all those involved – especially the Hathaway family. Glad to hear that Liberty University is handing this incident with care and support for everyone impacted by it.

  • Typical of wingnuts. Focus on the least relevant detail of the article and ignore the actual events discussed.

  • Calling a person with an opposing view a “wingnut” doesn’t strengthen your position. If you don’t agree with me, explain why. The fact that the author picked one completely unrelated policy change at LU to include in her article about an attacked officer is significant. The fact that you identify the statement as “least relevant detail” proves my point: it had nothing to do with the story, yet it was included. The question then is why? Does she want the reader to imply the concealed carry policy was involved? If not, why include it? Liberty makes many security policy changes each year. Why was this one the only change mentioned? (Not to mention she reported the change incorrectly. Professors have been able to carry for many years.) Why not mention the new lock system in the dorms? Oh…that’s not relevant. What about the new police cruisers or radio system? Not relevant? My point is that bias in the media needs to be exposed and rejected. This is one example of bias and I for one am disappoint that this author chose this article to include it. It makes me not want to read or trust other things she says because she is no longer just reporting facts, rather trying to slant the story.