Police arrested an 18-year-old in the shooting of two students at Delaware State University, authorities said Monday. As they led him into a courthouse, he told reporters: “I’m sorry.”
Loyer D. Braden, arrested about 3:30 a.m. in his dorm room, was charged with attempted murder, assault and reckless endangerment, as well as a gun charge, according to court documents.
A justice of the peace set bail for the East Orange, N.J., teenager at $75,000 and ordered him to stay away from the victims and Delaware State. Braden is a freshman at Delaware State, according to a man at Braden’s home in East Orange who identified himself only as a family member.
University officials, who had assured the campus community over the weekend that the gunman was not on campus, could not explain how or when Braden returned to his dorm room.
“I’m not clear on that matter,” Delaware State University Police Chief James Overton said. “I can’t get into that.”
Overton did say that students returning to campus for Monday classes were not subject to checks.
Four Dover police officers escorted Braden to the court Monday afternoon with his hands cuffed and his legs shackled.
In response to reporters’ questions, he said softly: “I’m sorry.” Asked what he was sorry for, he replied only: “She’s in the hospital.”
One of the wounded students, Shalita Middleton, 17, was being treated for abdominal wounds at Christiana Hospital in Newark, Del. University spokesman Carlos Holmes said Middleton had not been questioned and “will not be questioned until we get clearance from the physicians.”
The other wounded student has been talking with police, officials said, but that student’s mother said the 17-year-old freshman didn’t know who the gunman was or what triggered the shooting at the Village Cafe, a campus dining hall that stays open until 3 a.m.
Nathaniel Pugh III, a freshman biology major, told his mother he had left the cafe when he heard two gunshots about 1 a.m. and started running. A third shot caught him in the ankle, shattering two bones, said his mother, Michelle Blackwell, in an interview from Kent General Hospital in Dover.
“He didn’t see who shot him, but there were several students gathered there on the campus who could have seen who shot him,” Pugh’s mother, Michelle Blackwell, told The Washington Post.
“He was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Period,” she said.
Braden was also accused of firing at a third student, James Richmond, according to the documents describing the reckless endangerment charge. A preliminary hearing was scheduled for Friday.
Rivalry may have led to shooting
The shootings followed a fight Tuesday between Braden and one of the victims in a university parking lot, according to an affidavit by Lt. Donald Baynard of the Delaware State University police department. The heavily redacted document said the victim involved was male, but did not say whether he was Pugh or Richmond.
The person involved in the fight received a small cut under his lip, and he spit saliva and blood on Braden’s face, the affidavit said. The dispute boiled over again Thursday night when the two ran into each other at the Village Cafe, but that argument was defused and both left, the affidavit said.
Some students have said the shootings stemmed from a rivalry between students from Washington, D.C., and New Jersey, although university police have said the investigation has not led them to believe there was a “turf battle.” Others have said a dispute followed a card game.
Dover police spokesman Capt. Lester Boney referred questions to university officials.
DSU president Allen Sessoms indicated that Braden’s arrest does not mark the end of the investigation.
“Something happened here that we’ve got to get our arms around,” Sessoms said.
Family puzzled by incident
The family member at Braden’s New Jersey home said Braden’s mother went to Delaware to get more information on the charges. “The whole thing is just not his M.O.,” the man said. “It’s really puzzling to us.”
Braden graduated in June from Immaculate Conception High School in Montclair, N.J., where he played basketball and football. “This would be the last thing I’d ever expect of Loyer,” football coach Sean Morris said.
In 1998, Braden was among a group of Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts who escorted jazz great Lionel Hampton to an East Orange elementary school that had named a concert hall in Hampton’s name, according to The Star-Ledger of Newark.
Classes on the Dover campus of about 3,690 students were canceled Friday following the early morning shooting. They resumed Monday, Holmes said. Campus police Chief James Overton has said investigators believe the shooter was a Delaware State student.
Mindful of the Virginia Tech massacre in which 32 people were killed in April, Delaware State administrators ordered a swift shutdown of the campus after the shooting. They directed students to stay in their dorms, posted notices on buildings and the school Web site, and lowered gates while police searched for the gunman.