AUSTIN, Texas - Huston-Tillotson University is mourning the loss of Natalia Cox, a 21-year-old biology student.
According to Austin Police, 9-1-1 received several calls from Cox’s apartment complex, the Colonial Grand at Canyon Point in Northwest Austin, around 2:40 a.m. Wednesday. Callers said they heard what sounded like "a door being kicked in." Police say the callers "also reported hearing several gunshots, a woman screaming," someone running, and a car leaving "in a hurry."
When officers arrived at Cox’s apartment it appeared the front door had been "forced open." They found Cox inside a bedroom with "gunshot wounds." First responders attempted to save Cox’s life but she was pronounced dead just after 3 a.m.
"I think it’s important to understand just how horrific gun violence is but also that violence against women is still such a big deal... especially against women of color," said Dr. Wenxian Tan, an assistant professor of biology at Huston-Tillotson University.
University employees say Cox was an aspiring exotic animal veterinarian. She served as Acting President of the Pre-Alumni Council, Secretary of Alpha Kappa Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., and sat on the executive board of Deeds Not Words. The organization advocates for women’s rights and against gender-based violence.
"This was an area that Natalia cared about and worked in and so I urge people to look at those issues because they, that’s part of what happened to her," said Dr. Amanda Masino, an associate professor of biology at Huston-Tillotson University
Cox worked with Masino and Tan on the Austin Urban Coyote Project — a Huston-Tillotson-Texas Parks and Wildlife research partnership. The researchers initially set out to track coyotes, and now study their food — rodents.
"[Cox] was wonderful, I mean, she, she had such enthusiasm for the work and real passion and she cared so deeply about animals, and you know, caring for them. She was also just incredibly intelligent, incredibly intelligent, just adaptable, resourceful… she was like a real partner. Acting like a colleague even though she was still a student." said Masino.
Tan says the project requires "very early mornings." Still, he said Cox was "always on time" and "joyful."
The academics say Cox was an "incredible person." "...I think that’s part of what is really hard. Natalia was just showing how much she was going to do, she was just at the beginning of having an impact and was having an impact but you could see how much more she was gonna have over the course of her life in so many areas… as a scientist as a veterinarian, as a human being who cared about issues in the world, and so to see that cut short was horrible," said Masino.
University President and CEO Dr. Collette Pierce Burnette told FOX 7 Austin Cox was "...just a sweetheart. This is a personal loss for me."
Austin Police say the case is being "actively investigated." They are "developing leads towards identifying a suspect."
Detectives are asking anyone with information or video of the incident to call APD Homicide at 512-974-8477 (TIPS), email firstname.lastname@example.org, utilize the Crime Stoppers tip line at 512-472-8477 (TIPS), or the Crime Stoppers app. You may submit a tip anonymously. A $1,000 reward is being offered for information that leads to the arrest of the suspect.