After Catholic University Shooting Death, Family Disputes DC Police Statements

Emerson’s parents say he was robbed of his cell phone and belongings while walking to the Metro to travel to a conference.

Vigil. (photo: New Africa / Shutterstock)

The family of a man fatally shot on the campus of the Catholic University of America have disputed police statements that he was known to the gunman and that there was no threat to the wider community, while police say the matter is still under investigation.

Max Emerson, a 25-year-old from Crestwood, Kentucky, was shot Wednesday morning on the university’s Washington, D.C. campus and later died at a local hospital.  

Emerson was not a student or member of the faculty. He was a social studies teacher at Oldham County High School in north-central Kentucky who was in Washington, DC to attend a conference at the Library of Congress, family members told Fox5 News.

His parents Steve and Chandra Emerson said they were in town with their son and his twin brother to sightsee and celebrate the Fourth of July.

The university’s initial statement, citing the Metropolitan D.C. Police Department, said the two individuals were known to each other and the incident was not random. They said there was no current danger to the university community.

Emerson’s parents, however, say he was robbed of his cell phone and belongings while walking to the Metro to travel to the conference.

“We know for a fact he did not know this person,” Steve Emerson told Fox 5 News.

Chandra Emerson said she believes there is still a threat.

“I mean, how could there not? I mean he came up and shot my son,” she told Fox 5 News.

Moments before the alleged robbery, she said, Emerson sent her a Snapchat message: “Help. Bring ribbed At cub point."

“I figured out it said, ‘I’m being robbed at gunpoint,‘” Chandra Emerson told FOX 5 News. "The only thing I can think of is that Max is a friendly person, and you know, he saw the person and didn’t react. I don't know. I have no idea where that came from. I think the guy just came up on him, and he just had that amount of time to send me that text.”

At about 8 a.m. on July 5, Emerson and another man walked onto the school’s campus from Michigan Avenue and got into an altercation in the plaza in front of Father O’Connell Hall. One of the men, who has not yet been publicly identified, drew a gun, shot Emerson, and fled on foot.

The university’s Department of Public Safety and emergency services that were called to the scene provided first aid, but Emerson died at a local hospital from the injuries.

Metropolitan Police Assistant Chief Leslie Parsons, speaking in a Thursday morning press conference said detectives have video evidence showing the two men walking together to the place of the altercation. Detectives are investigating whether there is a connection between the victim and the suspect.

CNA sought comment from the Metropolitan Police, which referred to Parsons’ Thursday press conference.

Police are offering a $25,000 reward for information that leads to the arrest and conviction of the shooter, which the department offers for all homicide investigations. Parsons said the suspect appeared to be male who is White or Latino or with a very light complexion.

The Catholic University campus has responded to the crime.

During the noon Mass on campus on Wednesday, Director of Campus Ministry Father Aquinas Guilbeau prayed for the repose of Emerson’s soul. Campus Ministry also held a prayer service at 11:30 a.m. on Thursday in front of O’Connell Hall.

A community candlelight vigil for Emerson was scheduled for Friday in Louisville, Kentucky, the victim’s father Steve Emerson told Fox 5 News. “Everybody loved him,” he said.