Meixner family seeking millions from University of Arizona following fatal campus shooting

Published: Mar. 27, 2023 at 2:28 PM MST|Updated: Mar. 27, 2023 at 9:28 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (13 News) - The family of former University of Arizona professor Dr. Thomas Meixner, who was shot and killed on campus in October 2022, is seeking $9 million in a newly filed Notice of Claim.

UArizona President Dr. Robert C. Robbins had promised the independent review days after the shooting. The PAX Group report can be read by clicking HERE.

“Almost five months ago, the University of Arizona community suffered a profound loss with the tragic death of Professor Thomas Meixner, Chair of our Department of Hydrology and Atmospheric Sciences,” Robbins said in a release Monday. “Our thoughts continue to be with Dr. Meixner’s wife, Kathleen, their children, Sean and Brendan, his colleagues both here in Arizona and around the world, and his students.”

“The hardest thing that has ever happened to us is losing Tom. And the second hardest thing is filing this notice of claim,” Tom’s wife, Kathleen, said of the claim. “We needed to do it to make sure that this doesn’t happen to any other family again. It’s heartbreaking for us to file a Notice of Claim against the University of Arizona, which was an institution that Tom loved. But, we also know that in order to prevent this from happening to anybody else that it was necessary.”

The family’s lawyer did not mince words when asked about the university’s role in Meixner’s death.

“The University had a chance to save Tom and did not act,” said attorney Larry Wulkan. “Nothing the University can do can bring Tom back. Now it has a chance to ensure that Tom’s family does not live with financial uncertainty because of the University’s failures. Hopefully, the University will do the right thing this time.”

The family’s claim states the “University, including its own President, has stated it recognizes its failures and consequent responsibilities to the Meixner family. Authorities said Meixner was killed by former student Murad Dervish, who had a history of violence.

The family said this claim will certainly not fix the harm done to them, but it “will allow the Meixner family members to move forward with some level of security and accountability from the University of Arizona, which Dr. Meixner served and loved.”

“The University of Arizona sacrificed Professor Tom Meixner’s life, repeatedly ignoring the clear and present danger of a hostile and dangerous student who openly advertised his intent to murder,” the family said in the claim. “Murad Dervish had a well-documented, lengthy history of violence and intimidation, a history the University chose to ignore.”

It continued, “Many faculty members, including Dr. Meixner, pleaded over and over with all the ‘right’ University departments for protection. Instead, in repeated acts and omissions of outrageous callousness and disregard, the University allowed the entirely foreseeable to unfold and occur: Dervish went to the University campus unimpeded and murdered Dr. Meixner, precisely as he promised he would. The law firms of Zwillinger Wulkan and Kuykendall & Associates represent Dr. Meixner’s bereaved widow, Kathleen, and Kathleen and Dr. Meixner’s sons: Sean and Brendan.”

Murad Can Dervish is facing murder and aggravated assault charges.
Murad Can Dervish is facing murder and aggravated assault charges.(Pima County Sheriff's Department)

The claim also details the events from Oct. 5, 2022. It states that Dervish walked onto the University of Arizona campus at 1:30 p.m. and entered the Harshbarger Building looking for several faculty members whom he had allegedly threatened to kill multiple times.

It also notes Meixner’s final words, “I knew you were going to do this,” which were said in front of several witnesses.

According to the Meixner family, his murder was “not a random act of violence.”

The claim says, “the University knew Dervish planned to kill him and allowed it. Dr. Meixner’s death was a direct consequence of the danger created by the University of Arizona’s failure to appropriately respond to Dervish’s repeated harassment, intimidation, and violent threats.”

The University of Arizona did try to get Dervish charged twice before the fatal shooting. But in both cases, the Pima County Attorney’s Office determined there wasn’t enough evidence.

Dervish has been charged with murder and aggravated assault. His next court appearance is a status conference on Monday, May 8, and his jury trial has been scheduled to run from Sept. 19-29.