Chancellor Message to Community

Dear UC Merced Community,

I am writing to provide you with an update on the incident involving student Hector Barrera-Barraza over the weekend.

Though it has only been a few days since we received the tragic news, in some ways it seems much longer. However, I'm relieved to be able to say we have some new information, which came to us this evening (March 19) from the Merced County Coroner's Office. Preliminary results from the autopsy conducted today indicate that Hector died as the result of a fall, not from any foul play. It also appears that he died where he fell.

The sheriff and coroner are expediting the completion of the autopsy report and toxicology screening. We hope these further results will bring us a more complete picture of the accident sometime around the end of this week.

There are still questions to be answered about the circumstances surrounding this incident. However, the UC Merced Police Department will continue to investigate to try and ascertain as many of the facts as we can. It is important that anyone with information about Friday night and Saturday morning cooperate completely, because we all want to have the correct information. It is especially important for Hector's family to know, as much as possible, what happened to their son and brother. If you do have information, please contact the UC Merced Police Department by calling (209) 228-2677 [CAT COPS] or the anonymous tip line (209) 228-8477 [CAT TIPS].

I also have an update about the services being planned. Hector will be memorialized at a campus ceremony tomorrow afternoon, Tuesday, March 20. The planning is being finalized later this evening by students, so the time and the location will be confirmed in the morning.

Based on all that has been shared by people who knew Hector, it is very obvious that although he had only joined our campus last fall, he quickly became a beloved part of the community. We all mourn his early passing. He will be missed.

I am proud of the way you as students, staff and faculty have come together to support each other during this difficult time. I believe that we will come through this tragedy with greater care for each other and with a determination to honor Hector's life and potential by achieving our dreams and goals the way that he, as an enthusiastic friend, would have wanted us to do - both personally, and as a campus community.

With my deepest sympathy and concern,

Chancellor Steve Kang

Media Contact