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Trial begins for ex-University of Arizona grad student accused of fatally shooting professor in 2022

By Associated Press
Published: May 8, 2024, 8:14am

TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) — A jury has been seated for the trial of a former University of Arizona graduate student accused of fatally shooting a professor in 2022 after he was banned from campus because of harassment complaints.

Murad Dervish faces seven felony charges including first-degree murder in the death of Thomas Meixner, who was shot several times inside a building on Oct. 5, 2022.

Meixner, 52, had headed the university’s Department of Hydrology and Atmospheric Sciences and was an expert on desert water issues. Dervish, 48, had been a graduate student in the hydrology program before he was expelled.

Campus police said the shooting occurred inside the Harshbarger Building, which houses the hydrology department.

According to a criminal complaint, a flyer with a photograph of Dervish had been circulated to university staff in February 2022 with instructions to call 911 if he ever entered the building.

The complaint also said Dervish was barred from being on school property, and he had been the subject of several reports of harassment and threats to staff members working at Harshbarger.

Lawyers for the Meixner’s family said Dervish had threatened the professor in the past and entered the building without being stopped or followed.

University President Robert Robbins said campus police tried to get Dervish charged two separate times before the shooting and took the complaints to Pima County prosecutors. But they were told there wasn’t enough evidence.

Dervish fled the shooting scene. But he was arrested after his car was stopped on a highway more than 120 miles (193 kilometers) northwest of Tucson. A loaded 9 mm handgun was found in the vehicle, and the ammunition was consistent with the shell casings found at the scene, according to the criminal complaint.

Meixner’s family filed a $9 million notice of claim — a precursor to a lawsuit — in March 2023, saying there were numerous ways the university failed to protect him and the rest of the community.

The school and the Arizona Board of Regents, which oversees the state’s three public universities, reached a $2.5 million settlement with Meixner’s family last January.

Dervish’s trial is expected to last two weeks.