Duquesne University shootings likely over girlfriend

Players say gunman was unhappy that she was talking to them

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Stacy Gault, Duquesne Duke via AP
Duquesne University basketball player Kieron Achara talks with members of the girls soccer team on campus Sunday after five of his teammates were wounded in a shooting after a dance.
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Duquesne University's Ashaolu took circuitous route to Pittsburgh

The shooting of five Duquesne University basketball players after a student union dance on campus early Sunday may have been provoked by an argument over a girlfriend, university President Charles J. Dougherty said yesterday.

"There seems to be some consensus emerging that there was a boyfriend-girlfriend issue of some sort," Dr. Dougherty said during an afternoon news conference.

Last night, a 19-year-old sophomore at Duquesne was arrested by police and was going to be charged in connection with an incident that occurred just prior to the shooting, said attorney James M. Ecker. Mr. Ecker, who said he was retained by the woman's mother, would not elaborate and police would not comment on the arrest.

Dr. Daugherty said that when the basketball players realized the argument was going to turn violent, they tried to make peace but were shot as they walked away.

"Our students turned away and the shooters opened fire at their backs," Dr. Dougherty said.

Several players who spoke yesterday with The Associated Press confirmed that jealousy over a girlfriend seemed to be the cause of the trouble that led to the shooting. The players said that an unidentified male, who was not a student, was unhappy that a woman he accompanied to the dance had talked with a Dukes player or players.

"We didn't have any conflict at all," Stephen Wood, a freshman basketball player from New York City, told The AP. "We were just having a good time. There was jealousy because girls were showing us attention."

The players were followed by the other male and at least one of his acquaintances as they left the dance, and the shots began as the players walked together toward the dormitory.

"It seemed like the bullets never stopped coming," second-year player Aaron Jackson said.

Shawn James, a 6-10 center who was shot in the foot, told ESPN a woman at the dance hugged a basketball player, and her boyfriend saw it and became jealous.

"Her boyfriend called her over and they were arguing. Then the guy started saying stuff to us. It was our whole team. We told him we had no time for this and as soon as we turned away, two guys started shooting," Mr. James said.

"I promise you, we were just walking away and then five seconds later, no more, there were shots," Mr. James said. "It was 12 or more shots. There were two shooters. The guys were just shooting at everything and everybody. The team was hit because we were all together."

Three players remained hospitalized yesterday. The most seriously injured was Sam Ashaolu, who remained in critical condition fighting for his life last night at Mercy Hospital with a bullet lodged in his head.

Stuard Baldonado was shot in the arm and the lower back. His arm wound required reconstructive surgery but he is expected to heal completely.

Mr. Baldonado was upgraded to fair condition yesterday.

He was told by surgeons that a bullet missed his spinal column by one-quarter of an inch before lodging in a lower back muscle. The bullet is expected to be surgically removed today.

"I'm lucky," Mr. Baldonado told The Associated Press in his first interview since the shooting. "I feel much better today."

Kojo Mensah was expected to be released from UPMC Presbyterian yesterday.

Mr. Wood, who was not struck, saw Mr. Baldonado bleeding badly from his left arm and quickly took off his own shirt and applied a tourniquet.

"I turned away, and saw Stu on the floor, and my first reaction was to take my shirt off and try to stop the bleeding," Mr. Wood said. "Then I turned around and I saw Sam laying there."

Mr. Mensah, struck himself, aided several players by helping to barricade them behind a nearby steel door.

Mr. Jackson lifted the 250-pound Mr. Baldonado on his back, carried him to his car and drove him to nearby Mercy Hospital.

"He was real heavy," Mr. Jackson said. "He's the strongest guy I've ever met. But when he passed out on me in the car, man, that really [was bad]."

Mr. Jackson and Mr. Wood, however, played down their roles.

"You think, 'Oh, that's my man, we're going to look out for him,'" Mr. Jackson said.

Mr. Wood agreed, saying, "It's amazing how we've bonded as a team in a couple of weeks. They would do the same thing for us, if it were the other way around."

Although Pittsburgh police did not release any new information about their investigation, Dr. Dougherty said there was most likely more than one gunman.

The shooting took place during a campus event called College Bash '06.

It was sponsored by the Black Student Union and held in the Student Union Ballroom. About 200 students from area colleges and universities including Duquesne, Carnegie Mellon and Robert Morris universities, the University of Pittsburgh, Carlow University and Community College of Allegheny County attended, along with non-college students from throughout the area.

With a relatively small number of black students enrolled at the campus, the student union had to cast a wide net while promoting the fund-raising event, which included inviting the public.

Duquesne officials said there were 350 black students last year among an enrollment of 8,500. The school, which now puts its campus population at nearly 10,000 students, did not have a corresponding figure this year for black students.

Dr. Dougherty said a committee of faculty members will look at ways to enhance security at future events, but he said the university will probably not seek to change its existing policy, which allows students from other colleges and non-students to visit the campus for social events.

"The number of minorities on campus is not great and for them to have a robust social life means having them reach out to other students on other campuses," he said. "Many of our students are from the Pittsburgh area and we can't bar them from bringing girlfriends and boyfriends to campus events."

Dr. Dougherty said there were no metal scanners at the event or bag searches, nor would there typically have been any for such an event.

Six armed police officers and two security officers worked the dance. But the shooting did not occur until after it ended at 2 a.m. There was no way to anticipate or prevent what happened, he said.

"What we are dealing with here is an act so irrational we couldn't predict it," Dr. Dougherty said. "We could be looking at several dead students given the callousness of the shooter and the disregard for human life.

"No one has described a scenario that comes close to justifying violence of any sort, no less this dastardly cowardly kind of violence that we saw [Sunday]."

James Jacobs, 22, a senior running back on Duquesne's football team, was at the party, but did not see the shooting.

"It was a smooth party," he said. Everything happened after it was over. A couple of words were exchanged. I heard shots and I ran the opposite way."

Alan Robinson of The Associated Press contributed to this report. Tim Grant can be reached at tgrant@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1591. Bill Schackner can be reached at bschackner@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1977.


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