NEW YORK — A 13-year-old boy was taken into custody Friday in connection with the killing of Tessa Majors, an 18-year-old Barnard College student who was fatally stabbed while walking through a park near campus, law enforcement officials said.
Investigators believe that the boy was part of a group that attacked Majors on Wednesday night as she was walking through Morningside Park in Manhattan, one official said.
Police were not sure what role the teenager played in the stabbing and have yet to charge him with a crime. One official said the boy had implicated himself in the attack in his statements to police, but had not confessed.
Investigators believe two other people also participated, the official said.
The killing of Majors, a first-year college student from Virginia who was interested in journalism and played in a rock band, rattled university students and other city residents.
“It’s terrifying to think that that could happen anywhere,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said at a news conference Thursday. “It’s unbelievable to me that that could happen here, next to one of our great college campuses.”
Majors was walking in the park when she was approached by people near West 116th Street and Morningside Drive, said Rodney Harrison, the Police Department’s chief of detectives, on Thursday.
There was a struggle, and one of the assailants pulled out a knife and stabbed Majors several times, Harrison said. The attackers then fled, and Majors staggered up a flight of stairs, out of the park and onto the street, where a campus security guard found her.
Majors was taken to Mount Sinai St. Luke’s hospital, where she died from her injuries, Harrison said.
“We lost a very special, very talented, and very well-loved young woman,” her family said in a statement Thursday. “Tess shone bright in this world, and our hearts will never be the same.”
Majors grew up in Charlottesville, Virginia, and had just moved to New York for college. She spent her weekends singing and playing punk rock.
She and her band, Patient 0, had just put out their first album in the fall, and they had played their first New York City concert in October.
The park where Majors was stabbed, near the campuses of Barnard College and Columbia University, is in a precinct in Harlem that has grown safer over the years, with major crimes declining dramatically there over the last 20 years, according to police data.
But residents have raised concerns about persistent crime in Morningside Park, even as the neighborhood around it improved, and playgrounds and ball fields replaced patches that were once strewn with crack vials.
Earlier this year, several people reported that they had been approached from behind in the park and punched by young people.
As of Dec. 8, there had been 20 robberies inside Morningside Park or on its perimeter this year, compared to seven in the same period last year.
Since June, five people have reported being robbed on or near the staircase at 116th Street and Morningside Drive, near the location where Majors was stabbed. Recently, police said, several teenagers had been arrested in a pattern of robberies in the area.