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University grieves fallen student


Joseph Tillman

Joseph Tillman


From left, Jaylen M. Barker, Jamario Pippins, Tyler Harris and Brandon Sherrod

From left, Jaylen M. Barker, Jamario Pippins, Tyler Harris and Brandon Sherrod



Joshua Starr



Kind. Generous. Forgiving. 


Joseph Tillman's friends and Phi Delta Theta fraternity brothers gathered Sunday evening for a prayer service in the Chapel of Memories at Mississippi State University, remembering their slain schoolmate for those distinct qualities. Many other students stood in quiet reflection in a pathway outside the chapel's doors, trying to understand how one of their own could be gone so soon. 


"Thank you all for coming out," Phi Delta Theta member Jake Austin told attendees. "It means a lot to everyone, especially his family. He knows we were all here, and he knows we're all his family." 


Tillman, a 21-year-old MSU student, was killed at about 1:50 a.m. on Sunday during a robbery on Maxwell Street in the Cotton District, according to a Starkville Police Department press release. MSU Chief Communications Officer Sid Salter confirmed the Schlater native was a senior marketing major. 


Starkville police have arrested four suspects in connection to Tillman's shooting death. All four have been charged with murder. 


Police located the suspects during a traffic stop, the release said, and officers found weapons in the vehicle.  


Jaylen M. Barker, 20, is accused of murder and is being held in Clay County Jail on a $1 million bond. Charged with murder as accessories are 22-year-old Jamario Pippins, 16-year-old Tyler Harris, and 19-year-old Brandon Sherrod. Their bonds are set at $500,000 each. 


Harris is in the Oktibbeha County Jail. Pippins and Sherrod are both being held in Webster County.  


All four suspects are from either Oktibbeha or Lowndes County, police said. Their first appearances in Starkville Municipal Court are set for 6 p.m. today.  


The Mississippi Bureau of Investigation, the U.S. Marshal Service, state police and Oktibbeha County Sheriff's Office are all assisting in the ongoing investigation.  


MSU sophomore marketing major Parker Quinn, 19, had worked alongside Tillman since August as a waiter at Bulldog Burger in the Cotton District. He said Tillman made a positive impression on everyone he met. 


"Everyone liked him," Quinn said. "He was that guy that made work better and go by faster because we would joke around and mess with each other. I doubt you'll find anyone with a negative thing to say about him. If you met Tillman, you liked him." 


Quinn added his prayers are with the Tillman family. 


"It's just really sad for his family," Quinn said. "He didn't deserve to get his life taken like that." 


At the prayer service, Austin said it wasn't the first time he had lost someone close to him to gun violence, though he didn't elaborate. 


"It's going to hurt, but it's going to hurt a little bit less every day," he said. 


MSU Student Counseling Center personnel attended the prayer service to provide resources and schedule sessions for grieving students in need. 


Students can reach the center at (662) 325-2091.  


Starkville police ask anyone with information on this, or any other incident, to contact the Starkville Police Department at 662-323-4131 or Golden Triangle Crime Stoppers at 1-800-530-7151. 


Reporter Carl Smith contributed to this article.




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