Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Westfield man arrested in Amherst Murder

AMHERST — A Westfield man was arrested and arraigned yesterday on a single count of murder in the death of David C. Sullivan, a 22-year-old University of Massachusetts student.

According to a release from the office of Northwestern District Attorney, Elizabeth Scheibel, Bryan Johnston, 23, of 342 Southwick Road, was arraigned before Judge Robert F. Kumor, Jr. at Noble Hospital, in Westfield. Johnson had been a patient in the facility since early Tuesday morning. No details regarding Johnston’s medical condition were made public yesterday.

Sullivan’s body was found inside the bedroom of his 105 Meadow Street home early Tuesday morning at approximately 12:31 a.m. Sullivan was a Building Materials and Wood Technology major at the school, expected to graduate in the Spring of 2005.

According to the Northwestern District Attorney’s office, Sullivan had visible injuries that appeared to be gunshot wounds that investigators believe came from a rifle caliber firearm.

Johnston was ordered to be held at the Hampshire County House of Corrections until today’s court appearance, at which time he will be given an examination to test his competency to stand trial.

“[To be ruled competent to stand trial] they go up in front of a judge and a doctor,” said an anonymous source at the Hampshire County House of Corrections.

Despite the recent shooting, UMass director of News and Informaton, Ed Blaguszewski says the Amherst area has not experienced much violence in the last 10 years.

“I think it’s a fair case to say that this is rare,” said Blaguszewski.

In October 2002, Jennifer Paluseo, then a UMass senior, was charged with involuntary manslaughter, after she gave birth to a baby boy in a shower stall in James Hall dormitory, and then disposed of the live child in a trashcan.

UMass Police Chief Barbara O’Connor said that the last incident of this magnitude that she knew of was a shooting at Cashin Hall in 1998. O’Connor was referring to an Oct. 30, incident in 1998 when Sokha Doe Chhim of Amherst shot a UMass student in the neck during an attempted robbery.

Blaguszewski said that the UMass Police Department is not involved with the investigation, and that the Amherst PD is among a group involved in an ongoing investigation, including the State Police Detective Unit, and the Northwestern District Attorney’s office.


As details of the Tuesday morning incident spread across campus, students and faculty reacted to the news.

“Obviously our condolences go out to the family and friends of David Sullivan,” Blaguszewski said. He added that he doesn’t remember anything like this ever happening here.

“It’s not something that I’m aware of,” he said.

Vice Chancellor of Campus Affairs and Student Life Michael Gargano commented on how he felt about the incident.

“Obviously we’re deeply saddened at any time a member of the UMass family loses his life. It’s double daunting because he’s so young. He had his whole life in front of him,” he said.

Blaguszewski agreed with Gargano’s comments on tragedy.

“It’s always difficult to grapple with the death of a student,” he said.

Gargano, who was in Florida yesterday, said he hasn’t heard anything about a motive or anything involving the status of the investigation. However, he expressed his condolences to everyone involved.

“We share the grief with the family and friends,” he said.

Many students around campus didn’t think that this incident would affect their day-to-day safety.

“It hasn’t given me any fear. I don’t feel less safe,” said Anh-Dao Nguyen, a junior biochemistry major at UMass.

“It’s kind of crazy that it happened,” said Joe Aquino, a junior math major at UMass.

Aquino said that he doesn’t feel any less safe, and that he thinks this was an isolated incident. However, he does beleive that the killer probably had motive.

“I don’t think that it was some random murder,” he said.

Even though he said that he wasn’t fearful for his safety, philosophy graduate student Steve Woodside said that he is going to be careful in the days to come if he lived on campus.

“I would definetly walk a little more carefully,” he said. He added that he didn’t think it would affect the safety of the people on campus.

Central Berkshire Superintendent Paul E. Swem, who was superintendent while Sullivan was in high school, shared his sympathy.

“Certainly we regret the loss of a life that we had to do with the forming of,” he said.

Anyone with any information on the incident on Tuesday morning should call the Amherst Police Department at 413-256-4011.

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