As the school year winds down at the University of Texas at Austin, the campus community has many reminders that a year ago, three students were injured and one Longhorn was killed in a stabbing attack on campus.
Tuesday, friends and family members of slain 19-year-old Harrison Brown will honor his life on the campus where a special tree, a memorial plaque and a brick in the ground already pay tribute to him.
Brown died after being stabbed in the chest just outside of Gregory Gym with a Bowie-style hunting knife. Harrison’s mother, Lori Brown, told KXAN her son handed his phone to a stranger passing by, telling them to call his mother as he was dying.
Brown was from Graham, Texas and was a member of UT’s a capella group the Ransom Notes.
Kendrex White, 22, is charged with murder and aggravated assault in the stabbing spree.
Campus safety group SafeHorns has been working with Brown’s mother on a campaign they’re launching Tuesday. The campaign wants to encourage students to call 911 if they witness crimes or see anything suspicious.
“On May 1, 2017, after he was stabbed, Harrison was the one who asked a student to call 911. This makes a mother’s heartache, knowing Harrison had to ask for help in his most urgent time of need,” wrote Lori Brown in a statement to SafeHorns. “Unfortunately, we live in a world where the Longhorn community must be aware at all times.”
The school’s police department says it’s stripping all the colors off its “Be Safe” graphics this month to honor Brown and “the void in our Longhorn community,” UTPD posted on Facebook. UTPD worked with his mother to include a star in the “Be Safe” logo. Lori Brown said Harrison was always a star in her eyes and had aspirations of producing music and working in film in Los Angeles.
“I’m really proud of that, Harrison would be really proud of that too, but the student body has to work together and follow through,” she said of the way Harrison’s memory has been included in these safety efforts.
In the past two years, the school has made numerous safety changes following the murder of Haruka Weiser in 2016 and Harrison Brown’s murder in 2017.
At the memorial Tuesday, Harrison Brown’s mother Lori drove out to be there.
“We just need to keep moving forward with everything and spread the word and keep each other safe,” she said. Lori recently began advocating for safety changes on campus as well as changes to Texas knife laws.
Among other things, Lori hopes Harrison is remembered for, “his happy smile and the bounce in his step.”
Some of Harrison’s friends from his childhood were also at the memorial, including Weston Womack, who grew up with Harrison in Graham and roomed with him when they both chose to attend UT.
Womack said that even though they were interested in different things, Harrison was the type of person who would always meet up with him at the end of the day and talk about how his life was going.
“That’s probably one of the biggest things I miss about him,” Womack said, noting that he was touched to find out how many others had stories of Harrison honestly offering his opinion and listening whole-heartedly.
Harrison was a large part of why Womack went to UT, and now Womack finds himself thinking about all the things they never got to do together in Austin.
“Right now, he’d probably be in the stairwell of his apartment and practicing guitar for the next time he’d got to a live performance,” Womack said.
Parts of Harrison’s death don’t sit well with Womack. He noted that the time it happened was one of the busiest times on campus.
“So I like question where was the courage of people who had to have seen Kendrix walking, someone had to have seen something you know?” Womack said. But he acknowledges he can’t change what happened and instead focuses on what was so special about his friend.
“Like the compassion and realness that he had and the happiness he shared with people,” Womack said.
Also in attendance at the memorial was Stuart Bayliss, one of the surviving victims of the stabbing attack.
It’s a busy time for Bayliss with finals, but more than the stress, he feels lucky to be alive.
One year after the attack, he is spending the day, “praying for Harrison Brown’s family and all the other victim’s families, and praying that today is a better day.”
Bayliss was stabbed in the back, the knife narrowly missed both his kidney and his spine. Seven of the eight tendons in his right hand were also cut by the knife. Bayliss, now 21, wasn’t sure during the stabbing last year that he’d make it to his 21st birthday.
“Just be grateful for what you have, it could be taken away at any moment,” he said, reflecting on the past year.
After a lot of physical therapy, Bayliss is continuing with his ROTC training and headed into his senior year at UT.
When Bayliss was stabbed, a friend nearby came to his aid. Bayliss, who had some first aid training, recalled telling his friend how to stop the bleeding. It made him think about the need for more trauma and first-aid training around campus.
“One thing I’d believe would be beneficial to the university as a whole is having the faculty have some sort of training regarding medical procedures,” Bayliss said, noting that something as simple as first-aid instruction can make a difference.
Jimmy Johnson, UT’s assistant vice president of Campus Safety, explained that certain jobs on campus, like UTPD officers, child care employees, and University Health Services staff are required to have first aid training.
In a recent change, building managers at all the buildings on campus will receive training for CPR, AED and hemorrhage control.
“Whatever we do will not bring those people back, but they certainly should be on the forefront of our minds as we plan safety efforts for our students, faculty, and staff,” Johnson said, explaining that Harrison and Haruka’s deaths have prompted a focus on bystander intervention.
“There could have been a lot more safety measures implemented, but could it have stopped anything? I can’t say for sure,” Bayliss said.
While Bayliss didn’t know Harrison or any of the other stabbing victims, he thinks about them often. In particular, he thinks about a note Harrison wrote which was found in his backpack the day he died.
The note listed off Harrison’s goals: make music, move to Los Angeles, work in film, produce music, find a cure for ALS (which his father was diagnosed with), and be happy.
“The last one that really stuck with me was, ‘be happy’, so that’s how I try to live my life each day, so if I can be happy and I can radiate that happiness to other people, even if its a depressing time,” Bayliss said. “I just try to stay positive and happy, live that way the best I can.”
Harrison will also be honored as part of the “UT Remembers” ceremony on Friday. The ceremony honors every member of the UT community who has died in the past year.