Ole Miss community shaken after student dies in hit-and-run

OXFORD, Miss. — Two Collierville men have been arrested for a deadly hit-and-run outside of Oxford City Hall.

Oxford Police said that 24-year-old Seth Rokitka and 18-year-old Tristan Holland have been charged in connection to the crime that left one Ole Miss student dead and another injured.

Rokitka has been charged with manslaughter, aggravated DUI, one count of duties of driver involved in accident resulting in death and one count of duties of driver involved in accident resulting in personal injury.

Holland was arrested in Shelby County, charged with accessory after the fact and will face extradition back to Oxford, the Oxford Police Department (OPD) said.

According to Oxford Police, Rokitka was arrested after his truck was found wrecked in Marshall County, Mississippi.

OPD said that the two men had no prior interactions with the two Ole Miss students before the deadly hit-and-run and neither Rokitka or Holland stopped to render air do the two students, despite knowing what they had just done.

Oxford Mayor Robyn Tannehill identified the student who died as Walker Fielder in a Facebook post.

According to the Oxford Police Department, officers headed to the back parking lot of City Hall around 1 a.m. on Sunday, October 16, after receiving calls about an injured man and woman.

Fielder was reportedly pronounced dead at Baptist Memorial Hospital in North Mississippi, while the other victim was transported to Regional One for treatment.

“Awful, terrible,” Ole Miss sophomore Robert Tilotta said. “I couldn’t imagine.”

Tilotta said Downtown Oxford was packed with students celebrating the school’s victory over Auburn Saturday night and Sunday morning.

“We had an 11 a.m. game, so people had been drinking all day,” junior Jake Cartwright said. “And it happened at 1 a.m., so they probably had been drinking for 13 hours or something.”

Tilotta said he saw one of the men in a bar Saturday evening.

“He was in Rafters earlier, probably like 7:00 p.m.,” he said. “He was trying to fight my friend and his dad who was visiting him.”

He said he watched the person in the red shirt get thrown out of the bar while stumbling.

“Causing problems with everyone, trying to fight everyone,” Tilotta said.

On Monday, the day after the deadly hit-and-run, black ribbons lined hours on sorority and fraternity row on the Ole Miss campus.

“In shock, because we’ve already had a lot of tragedies happening here, and just another one happening again, it’s awful,” Aubrey Williams, an Ole Miss junior said. “He was a really nice guy and really involved on campus.”

Friends of Fielder said he was an active member of the Sigma Chi fraternity and just turned 21 on Friday.

“It’s not only losing just a student, but it’s also like losing a friend,” Ole Miss junior Jackson Magill said.

Mayor Tannehill assured the public that finding justice for the students and their families is a top priority, writing to Facebook:

“I cannot let the sun go down on this terrible day without making a statement regarding the tragic event that happened in our community early this morning. As many of you have already heard, two students were injured in the parking lot behind City Hall. They were both immediately transferred to Baptist Memorial Hospital - North Mississippi. Sadly, the male student, Walker Fielder from Madison, Mississippi passed away from the injuries sustained. A female Ole Miss student remains hospitalized in Memphis. Please follow the social media accounts of the Oxford Police Department for information regarding the details of the incident and arrests. Information will be provided to the public as it is appropriate to do so. As this is an ongoing investigation, information may not be as readily available as some would hope, but I promise you that these families and finding justice for these students are our top priorities and the case will be handled with as much compassion as possible for those involved. I am proud of the Oxford Police Department and their dedication to these families and to getting answers. They are ultimate professionals and I am honored to work with them.

I am writing to you tonight as a Mother with a broken heart for these families, for their precious friends, for their sorority sisters and fraternity brothers, for their hometowns, and for our community as we all weather another terrible storm. I am writing to ask you for your prayers for Walker’s Mom and Dad and Sister as they mourn the loss of this young man who was handsome and kind and talented and loved by so many. Pray for peace and comfort for them that only comes from our Heavenly Father. I am asking you to pray for complete healing for the female student. Please pray for wisdom for her doctors and nurses. Please pray that her injuries and her heart would heal. The physical and emotional pain these families are experiencing is unimaginable.

Oxford is a community that comforts those that need comfort. Perhaps that comes from practice and from times of trials that we wish we could pray away, but nevertheless, Oxford always steps up when things are hard and when people need us. These two families need us. They need our prayers. They need us to surround those that love them and be God’s hands and feet. Times like these make us treasure our time with those we love. You have my commitment that we will continue to do all we can to make Oxford, Mississippi the safest community to go to school, to live and to visit.”

Dean Marsh called on the community to join in mourning for Fielder- and in hoping for the other victim’s recovery, writing in a statement:

“We received the heartbreaking news that one of our students was killed early this morning, and another was seriously injured after they were hit by a vehicle driving near the Square. We have been in touch with the families to offer our condolences and our support. I ask the community to join us in mourning the tragic loss of a life taken too soon, and we hope and pray that our injured student recovers fully from her injuries.

We understand this may be a very distressing time for our campus community, and we encourage anyone who needs assistance to visit the following university support services”

· University Counseling Center

· UMatter: Student Support & Advocacy

· Student Health Services

· Psychological Services Center

· Clinic for Outreach and Personal Enrichment (COPE)

Ole Miss Chancellor Glenn F Boyce said in a statement:

What had been a beautiful fall Saturday in Oxford ended with a horrendous event that took the life of one of our students. Walker Fielder, a junior from Madison, Mississippi, was killed and another student, Blanche Williamson, a sophomore from Raleigh, North Carolina, was seriously injured after they were struck by a vehicle in a hit-and-run just off the Square. It is a painful and distressing development for our campus community, and it is understandable that emotions are high with many unanswered questions about what happened.

Please join me in offering heartfelt condolences to Walker’s family, friends, classmates, and others. Walker was a leader in the Sigma Chi fraternity, and a widely liked member of our campus community. While there are no words that can alleviate the deep sorrow that his friends and family are experiencing, please keep them close in your thoughts and prayers during this time of immense grief.

In addition, please pray that Blanche continues to heal and recovers fully. She needs our support, love, and care.

I am grateful to the Oxford Police Department for its swift response. They are working with other law enforcement agencies to investigate this case vigorously, and two suspects who are not affiliated with our university are now in custody. Our community can help investigators by avoiding public speculation about what happened or why, and sharing relevant information if you have it. If you have any information that can help, please contact the Oxford Police Department at 662-232-2400, the University Police Department at 662-915-7234, or CrimeStoppers at 662-234-8799. Since this matter is an ongoing investigation, OPD will share updates with the public as they are able.

We are a tight-knit and welcoming campus and community, which is what makes this act so jarring for us.