APD arrests suspect in connection to homicide victim's death

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Photo Credit: Rachel Zein | Daily Texan Staff

Update (3:00 p.m.): UT President Gregory Fenves sent a statement Friday afternoon from Haruka Weiser’s family in an email to the UT community:

“We remain steadfast in our desire to honor Haruka’s memory through kindness and love, not violence,” read the statement from the family. “To the police officers, the UT community and all who have been impacted by this, we just ask that you hug your children, hug your parents TWICE, one from you and one from us.”

The statement was read earlier at the press conference Friday morning.

Update (11:25 a.m.): A suspect has been arrested in connection with the homicide of dance freshman Haruka Weiser.

According to Austin Police Department Chief Art Acevedo, the suspect — a 17-year-old black male named Meechaiel Criner — was arrested yesterday after a woman associated with UT recognized the man in the video released by APD yesterday as looking similar to a man involved in a fire she reported to law enforcement on Monday around 4 p.m. The fire was located in the 2900 block of Medical Arts, close to the UT campus.

Criner is booked in the Travis County jail and will be formally charged with murder, a first-degree felony, this afternoon, Acevedo said.

“We are certain the suspect we have in custody is responsible for the death of this beautiful young woman,” Acevedo said. “We’re going to bring justice to that family and restore the sense of safety this community has always enjoyed.”

There hasn’t been a homicide on the UT campus since 1966 — the UT Tower shooting — according to Acevedo. Acevedo said the police do not know the motive of the suspect and are looking into his criminal background. The suspect was taken to Lifeworks, a homeless shelter, Monday afternoon, Acevedo said. He was taken into custody Thursday in the late afternoon.

Acevedo said the suspect, who is homeless, had several items in his possession which appeared to be owned by Weiser, including a blue duffel bag.

UT President Gregory Fenves said increased police patrols are still in effect on campus.  

“Our students expect to be safe,” Fenves said. “We are taking measures and doing everything we can to improve the safety of the campus.”

UTPD Police Chief David Carter said the department will not only be patrolling the UT campus itself, but also the surroundings areas such as West Campus. Carter said the police will be taking a holistic approach to bringing increased measures of safety to campus and stressed the importance of partnerships between law enforcement agencies.

“UTPD’s motto is protecting those who will change the world,” Carter said. “We believe this is a safe campus. However, this tragic incident has us redoubling our efforts.”

According to a story published on Dec. 17, 2014 in the Tiger Times, Criner’s high school paper at Texas High School in Texarkana, Criner appeared to have been bullied from a young age.

In the article, in addition to being bullied, Criner talks about being a victim of physical violence and growing up without his parents.

Despite a difficult childhood, Criner said he was determined to “take a different path” and help others.

Original story: The Austin Police Department announced they have arrested a suspect in connection to the death of dance freshman Haruka Weiser.

The medical examiner’s office ruled Weiser’s death as a homicide. APD has not identified the suspect yet, but KVUE and the Austin American-Statesman, which first reported the development, said a 17-year old man is being held in custody.

According to KVUE’s Tony Plohetski, Austin firefighters may have recovered some of Weiser’s belongings after they responded to a small fire involving a backpack, and tipped off the police.

UT President Gregory Fenves said in an email to the UT community that “we are not at a point in the investigation at which I can discuss details.”

“However, I assure you that Austin Police and other law enforcement agencies are working quickly to resolve this heinous crime against one of our students,” Fenves said in the email. “I will remain in contact with you and share official information as soon as I can.”

Weiser was named yesterday as the homicide victim by APD and Fenves. An investigation into the homicide was first announced Tuesday morning to the UT community after a dead body was found in Waller Creek.