On May 18, 2009, Justin Cosby, a Cambridge resident, was struck by a bullet in the chest after a drug deal gone wrong in the basement of Kirkland House.
That such an incident could happen at Harvard shocked the campus and the nation, attracting widespread media attention and inducing short-lived student panic.
But since the alleged drug rip and shooting, the student body, by all accounts, has put the incident behind them, dismissing it as an isolated event. Meanwhile, administrators have remained relatively mum on the potential security flaws exposed by the incident and their response to them, citing ongoing criminal investigations.
Three men who are unaffiliated with Harvard University and Brittany J. Smith ’09—a former Lowell House resident who was not allowed to graduate last spring—are currently facing charges related to the alleged homicide.
Despite Harvard’s silence, conversations with administrators and students indicate that the College is taking some small steps to encourage students to more closely monitor and control access to Harvard dormitories and drug use at Harvard. Still, it is unclear whether these steps came about due to the Kirkland shooting, whether Harvard has taken any major steps to prevent such an incident from reoccurring—or whether they are simply too nervous to talk about it at all.
It was a Monday morning that would end in tragedy. Prosecutors say that three New York men—Jason Aquino, Jabrai J. Copney, and Blayn “Bliz” Jiggetts—were at Harvard, ready to make some cash.
Smith, who was dating Copney at the time, gave the men her identification card, allowing them access to buildings across campus, according to Middlesex County District Attorney Gerard T. Leone, Jr. ’85.
Aquino, Copney, and Jiggetts made their way to Kirkland House’s J-entryway, where they swiped Smith’s ID, according to prosecutors. The orange light turned green, the door unlocked, and the three men entered. Somehow, Cosby gained access to the building as well.
All four men would leave Kirkland House, but only three would survive the day.
It remains unclear how Cosby, the soon-to-be-victim who has since been linked to the campus drug trade, entered Kirkland House. One possibility is that he followed a student who swiped into the Harvard dormitory, a practice often called “piggybacking.”
About two weeks after the shooting, a private investigator and his wife were accused of piggybacking into a Harvard dormitory to investigate the incident. The investigator was charged with trespassing after a student reported them to a police officer.
Without directly referencing the Kirkland incident, College administrators say they are working to discourage piggybacking by encouraging students to be more vigilant about who they let into Harvard buildings.
“None of us want to slam the door in someone’s face, but in some sense, you have to when you’re in an urban environment like this,” says John “Jay” L. Ellison, associate dean of the College, who is involved with addressing security concerns at many levels of the University.
Often, the burden of securing Harvard premises falls on students, according to Ellison.