Ex-grad student held in Arizona professor’s fatal shooting

Oct 7, 2022, 3:08 PM | Updated: 3:41 pm
Two people hug after a shooting at the John W. Harshbarger Building on the University of Arizona ca...

Two people hug after a shooting at the John W. Harshbarger Building on the University of Arizona campus in Tucson, Ariz., on Wednesday, Oct. 5, 2022. University of Arizona police say one person was shot and wounded on campus and authorities are searching for the suspect. (Rebecca Sasnett/Arizona Daily Star via AP)

(Rebecca Sasnett/Arizona Daily Star via AP)

TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) — A former University of Arizona graduate student arrested in the fatal shooting of a hydrology professor was being held without bond Friday after a judge ruled there was enough evidence to try him on charges of first degree murder and aggravated assault.

An interim complaint in the case released Friday says Thomas Meixner, who headed the school’s Department of Hydrology and Atmospheric Sciences, was shot four times on Wednesday afternoon. The shooting happened inside the Harshbarger Building, which houses the hydrology department. Meixner was pronounced dead at a hospital.

According to the complaint, a second person, whose name was blacked out, was treated at the scene after being struck by a bullet fragment.

The complaint signed by a judge late Thursday at Pima County Justice Court said there was reasonable cause to proceed in the case against 46-year-old Murad Dervish. In Arizona, charges are not filed until a preliminary hearing takes place, and there was no word on when that would happen.

The Pima County Public Defender’s Office confirmed it received the case but has not yet assigned an attorney who can speak on Dervish’s behalf.

Campus police said the shooting occurred after a female called 911 around 2 p.m. Wednesday asking for police to escort a former student from the Harshbarger Building. Officers were on their way when they received reports that a man had shot someone then fled.

Campus alerts instructed people to avoid the area, which was under lockdown. Classes, activities and other campus events were canceled for the rest of the day.

State troopers arrested Dervish a few hours later about 120 miles (190 kilometers) northwest of the Tucson campus.

The complaint said officials found a 9mm handgun in the vehicle, along with ammunition consistent with the 11 casings found at the shooting scene.

The relationship between Dervish and Meixner remains unclear, but the interim complaint said a flyer with a photograph of Dervish, a former graduate student, had been circulated to university staff in February with instructions to call 911 if he ever entered the building. It also said he was “expelled” and “barred from being on University of Arizona property.”

“Dervish has been the subject of several reports of harassment and threats to staff members working at Harshbarger,” the complaint said.

The university announced a candlelight vigil would be held in Meixner’s honor at 8 p.m. Friday on the Old Main veranda. University President Robert C. Robbins was among those scheduled to talk.

Meixner was an expert on desert water issues. Faculty and former students described as a kind and brilliant colleague.

“This incident is a deep shock to our community, and it is a tragedy,” Robbins said in a statement late Wednesday.

Meixner earned a doctorate in hydrology and water resources from the university in 1999 and joined the faculty in 2005 before becoming the department head in 2019.

Twenty years ago this month, a disgruntled University of Arizona nursing student shot and killed three nursing professors before taking his own life.

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Ex-grad student held in Arizona professor’s fatal shooting