K-State student charged with 2nd degree murder

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A K-State student is being held at the Riley County Police Department for allegedly beating an Iraq veteran to death in Aggieville.

According to a press release from the RCPD, Justin Taylor, 24, of 619 Vattier St., has been charged with second-degree murder. His bond was set at $250,000.

Taylor is a junior in kinesiology.

Lt. Richard Fink of the RCPD said police responded to a call in the early hours of Aug. 11 about a man in an alley in the 1000 block north of Moro Street. There, police found Kevin Cockrum, 31, unconscious.

According to the press release, Cockrum was taken to Mercy Regional Health Center with severe head injuries, and was later flown to Wichita’s Via Christi Hospital in critical condition. Cockrum died from his injuries on Aug. 12.

After the attack, police released a statement and surveillance footage of a car near the scene around the time of attack. The press release said there were three individuals inside the car.

“There’s no real indication they knew each other on a regular basis,” said Fink, of the suspects and Cockrum. He said at this point, it seems they were involved in a verbal altercation that escalated.

A second student was also arrested and charged with aiding second-degree murder, but charges were later dropped. The student was released because of insufficient probable cause.

Pat Bosco, vice president of student life, said the university has a committee that addresses incidents involving students.

“Unfortunately, we have these situations occasionally and we address them on a case-by-case basis,” Bosco said. “We have a university-wide safety committee made up of counseling, staff, police, student life and academic administration to address any kind of potential safety issue.”

Bosco said the university committee is completely separate from the RCPD and would likely not release any information.

Cockrum, father of five, was a former combat medic in the military and served two tours in Iraq. His father, Robert Cockrum, said he was in improvised explosive device explosions in both tours, receiving two Purple Hearts.

Robert said his son was the type of person who was “always willing to help.”

“It makes me proud, knowing that I did everything I could to raise him right,” he said. “He was willing to always help other people, you know, putting his life to the side in order to help someone else who really needs help at the time.”

Robert said he always heard stories about his son’s generosity. He said one of the most touching stories was told at the funeral by a woman who served with Kevin in Germany.

“Kevin and them had just got back from their first tour of duty in Iraq. One girl had just gotten engaged and they came to her room and said, ‘Hey, you need to pack up, you’re being sent to Iraq,'” he said. “Kevin went to the commander and talked to him without anyone knowing and said ‘If there’s any way you could, I would like to take her place.'”

Kevin served in the military for about eight years, until he was stationed at Fort Riley in September 2010.

Kevin was buried on Aug. 18 in Alabama. He was buried in a military cemetery with full honors.

The investigation into his death is on going.

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