BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — A Baton Rouge man was arrested Thursday on murder charges in the deaths of two Southern University students who were killed in a shootout at an off-campus party in April.
Brandon Christopher Henderson, 25, was jailed on two counts of second-degree murder and one count of illegal use of a weapon, Baton Rouge police said in a statement.
Police don’t believe his bullets struck either woman, but Henderson told investigators that he fired the initial shots in the exchange of gunfire that killed the 19-year-old students, Lashuntae Benton and Annette January, police said.
Henderson was wounded in the April 10 shootout. Another suspect — 22-year-old Ernest Bernard Felton, of Miami — was arrested within hours of the shooting on a charge of attempted second-degree murder in Henderson’s shooting.
Police have described Benton and January as “innocent bystanders” caught in the crossfire.
A police report dated Thursday said investigators don’t believe Henderson fired the shots that killed the two students.
Marks on the bullets recovered from the women’s bodies didn’t match the type of handgun that Henderson “conceded” firing, according to the report. Marks on a bullet taken from Henderson’s body indicate he was shot by the same type of weapon that fired the bullets that killed the women, the report adds.
Felton, a former Southern football player, hasn’t been charged in the women’s deaths. Police said in Thursday’s statement that the case remains under investigation with “additional pending arrests.”
Benton, a sophomore from Lake Charles, Louisiana, was a student athletic trainer at the Baton Rouge college. January, a freshman from Gary, Indiana, was on Southern’s track and field team.
Benton’s mother, Theresa Tillman, said police called her early Thursday to inform her of Henderson’s arrest. A week ago, Tillman led a rally at the Louisiana Capitol to call for an end to the silence that appeared to be hindering the police investigation.
“This is the beginning of justice,” Tillman said in a telephone interview. “Now I have to see it through. It’s not through for me until he is sentenced.”
An initial police report on the shooting said people had gathered at a party outside an apartment complex near LSU’s campus when Henderson pulled up in a car. The initial report said a witness told police that Felton had initiated the shooting by firing at the sedan driven by Henderson.
However, the new police report says Henderson told investigators on Thursday that he “fired the first shots that initiated the shooting exchange.” Earlier, Henderson told police that he only began firing shots into the air from the driver’s side window of his car after he was shot.
Henderson also told police that the deadly encounter followed an earlier fight between his brother and a group of people at the apartment complex, the new report said.
Henderson was hospitalized for several days after the shooting.
Felton, who remained in Baton Rouge’s jail as of last Thursday, was a member of Southern’s 2012 football team but never played in a game and didn’t return to the team after the season, a school official said.
More than a dozen friends and relatives of Benton rallied on the Capitol steps last week, wearing T-shirts saying, “Let’s Stop Black on Black Violence” and holding signs bearing photos of Benton. At the time, Tillman said she believed many people at the party weren’t “speaking up” and telling police what they saw.
“I’ve always been satisfied with the police,” she said Thursday. “They have always done their job.”
(Photo Source: The Advocate)