The University of Arizona professor killed by a former student has been identified

A University of Arizona professor who was shoot and kill on campus by a former student identified as Thomas Meixner, the school said in a statement. Meixner was a professor who headed the hydrology and atmospheric sciences department, according to the school’s official bio.

Meixner was shot and killed Wednesday inside the Harshbarger Building on the university’s Tucson campus, police said. Around 2 a.m. local time, someone inside the building contacted police and asked them to remove a former student who was not allowed there, Balafas said. While police were en route, they received a second call that there had been a shooting. In a subsequent call to the police, he reported that the assailant fled the building.

Meixner was taken to a local hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

Murad Dervish, 46, a former graduate student at the university, was taken into custody several hours later just outside Gila Bend, Arizona, which is about 120 miles northwest of Tucson.

Balafas on Wednesday could not specify how well Dervish and Meixner may have known each other.

“We feel so incredibly bad for the professor’s family, friends and colleagues. Our hearts truly go out to them,” University of Arizona Police Chief Paula Balafas said Wednesday during a news conference. “It’s just one of those things that sometimes you can’t even predict. I’m afraid I’m at a loss for words because it’s just such a tragic situation.”

An undated photo of Thomas Meixner from the University of Arizona.

University of Arizona

Dervish had previous interactions with University of Arizona police, according to Sgt. Sean Shields. But he declined to say how many and when they happened.

Meixner earned a doctorate in hydrology and water resources from the university in 1999 and joined the faculty in 2005 before becoming department head in 2019. He was considered an expert on desert waters.

The campus reopened Thursday, but the university noted that “classes may be rescheduled or rescheduled in part by instructors to allow time to reflect on the loss of our beloved colleague.”

Several faculty members and former students took to social media to praise Meixner.

Karletta Chief, director of the university’s Indigenous Resilience Center, said she met Meixner when she was a graduate student in 2001 and new to the faculty. While she was not one of his students, her research in hydrology led to frequent collaborations. The last time he saw Meixner, who has been a big supporter of Native Americans and indigenous communities researching water-related issues, was a week ago at a seminar his department sponsored.

The chief said she emailed Meixner and several others in the hydrology department after the shooting and was devastated to learn he was the one shot.

“It’s just unthinkable that someone would have direct anger toward him. He was the complete opposite of that. He was just so kind and positive and always wanted to help,” said the Chief, who noted that Meixner never told her if I had a problem with a current or former student.

Meixner was also generous off campus, Chief said. He once donated money for a marathon he ran to benefit the Lymphoma Society.

“He shared that he was grateful that I did this run and that he survived cancer,” she said.

It was 20 years ago this month that a disgruntled University of Arizona nursing student shot and killed three nursing professors before killing himself.

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