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Police Arrest Suspect in the Death of University of Texas First-Year Student

Illustration for article titled Police Arrest Suspect in the Death of University of Texas First-Year Student

Art Acevedo, Chief of Police in Austin, Texas, confirmed that police have arrested a suspect in the death of University of Texas first-year student Haruka Weiser. In a press conference this morning, Acevedo said that police took Meechaiel Criner, a 17-year-old homeless teenager, into custody and booked him in the Travis County jail. Criner will be formally charged with murder later today.

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Weiser, 18, was found on campus Tuesday and later identified by the police. Yesterday, the Austin police released a video of a young man they believed to be a suspect. Acting on tips from an anonymous woman as well as the Austin Fire Department (AFD), Criner was located at Lifeworks, a shelter for at-risk youth.

According to Acevedo, the AFD was called to UT’s campus on Monday morning where, it’s believed, that Criner started a fire in a trash container. When the AFD responded to the call, they found a young man with a women’s bicycle (the same bicycle can be seen in the surveillance footage released by the police). The AFD took possession of the bicycle and booked Criner into Lifeworks. On seeing the surveillance footage, the fire department contacted the police and directed them to Criner’s location.

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Acevedo confirmed that Criner was in possession of a blue duffle bag that belonged to Weiser. In addition, the police recovered several items that belonged to the victim in the trash container that had been set on fire.

Though Acevedo noted that this is an “active investigation,” he said that he was “very certain that the subject in custody is responsible for [Weiser’s] death.”

Weiser, a Portland native, was studying dance and theater at the university. During the press conference, Acevedo relayed a message from Weiser’s mother encouraging the UT community to “take care of themselves.” “Go home and hug your children, not once but twice,” Weiser’s mother said through the chief.

UT President Gregory Fenves said that the arrest brought “a sense of relief” to the community and vowed to “make [Weiser’s] death an occasion to look at the safety of our campus, to find meaning in an otherwise senseless death.”

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Image via AP.

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DISCUSSION

I walked by where her body was found on Tuesday morning right when police and medical examiners were arriving. It’s so profoundly sad. There has been a lot of stress over a killer targeting UT students being free so this is a relief, if ultimately a sad relief that can’t bring Haruka back. Maybe reporters will leave campus now, too.

Also, where she was killed is wooded, unlit, and doesn’t have cameras. It was a massive security failure by the university. I used to think it was a beautiful and peaceful part of campus and I liked to drink coffee there. I doubt I’ll ever even walk there again. The palimpsest of grief and pain will remain there for a long time, for me anyway.