2 more arrested in Duquesne player shootings; man charged earlier is cleared

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Another man has been charged with shooting at five Duquesne University basketball players, and authorities say he was urged on by an 18-year-old woman who told the suspect and a second gunman to "get them."

New details of the shooting emerged yesterday as Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr. announced two more arrests and said that a man previously charged in connection with the Sept. 17 incident had been cleared of all wrongdoing.

Brandon Baynes, 19, of Penn Hills, was released from jail yesterday after a witness who had earlier identified him as a shooter recanted the account.

Mr. Zappala identified the two new suspects as Derek Lee, 18, of the North Side, and Erica Renee Sager, 18, of Wilkinsburg.

Mr. Lee is charged with five counts of attempted homicide and aggravated assault and single counts of criminal intent, conspiracy and carrying a firearm without a license. He is being held without bond in the Allegheny County Jail.

Ms. Sager -- who, like Mr. Lee, was never enrolled at Duquesne -- was charged with five counts of aggravated assault and one count of criminal solicitation. She is believed to have talked with the basketball players and then urged others in a group she was with to shoot them.

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Mr. Lee was arrested shortly before the 1 p.m. news conference, Mr. Zappala said. Ms. Sager was arrested late Wednesday night, police Cmdr. Thomas Stangrecki said.

Three witnesses, according to the police affidavit, identified Mr. Lee as a gunman. One witness said that he pulled a gun from his waistband and fired twice at the basketball players.

Another witness said Mr. Lee ran into a crowd while pointing his gun. Upon returning to his vehicle, Mr. Lee, according to the same witness, said, "I almost shot little Bill in the head" -- a reference to William Holmes, 18, of Penn Hills.

Mr. Holmes, who was previously charged in the shooting, remains in jail. Mr. Zappala said, "There is substantial and strong evidence as to Holmes [involvement]."

The incident occurred on campus, in the early hours of Sept. 17, following a dance sponsored by the Black Student Union. One of the injured players, Sam Ashaolu, remains hospitalized.

According to the affidavit, detectives interviewed a source who observed a "light-skinned black female" speaking to the five students before they were shot. The woman later spoke to the two men with guns saying: "Yeah, shoot them. Get them." On Tuesday, the same source, shown a lineup of six computer-generated photos, identified the woman as Ms. Sager.

Another woman, Brittany Jones, 19, was charged previously in the case. Police say she helped a group of men smuggle guns into the dance party at the Duquesne Union.

Attorney Sumner Parker, who represents Mr. Baynes, had maintained that police had the wrong person. He said that he appreciated that investigators continued their work and found evidence that indicated others were involved. He said he would not be surprised if Mr. Baynes were called as a witness in the case.

Originally, Mr. Baynes had been identified based on the statement of one witness. During an interview with Deputy District Attorney Mark Tranquilli, the witness retracted the identification.

"As the analysis continued," Mr. Zappala said, "it became apparent that Brandon Baynes could not have been the second gunman."

Mr. Baynes, before his arrest, had been taking summer classes at Penn Hills High School, in hopes of earning enough credits to graduate. Now, Mr. Baynes plans to resume that course.

"Imagine yourself trying to finish your high school credits and graduating by attending summer school, and then in the middle of that being thrown into the Allegheny County Jail for 10 days," Mr. Parker said. "What's he gone through mentally? You tell me."

Yesterday evening, Mr. Baynes' father and two older sisters waited outside the jail for his release. He exited the building without commenting to news media members, on the advice of Mr. Parker, who said, "Tonight is a night for him to just be with his family."

Said A.J. Baynes of his son: "He's a good kid. He didn't deserve this."

Mr. Baynes and Mr. Lee have known one another since elementary school.

"It's my understanding," Mr. Parker said, "that Derek Lee told a number of people he would turn himself in and he would not let Brandon suffer any more harm for something he did not do."

The witness, a woman, who recanted the identification of Mr. Baynes will not face charges for the reversed statement, Mr. Zappala said. But he added that the witness, who is not in custody, has been charged for "independent issues."


Chico Harlan can be reached at aharlan@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1227.


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