The Richmond County Sheriff’s Office named a person of interest in its investigation of four recent shootings on the Paine College campus and nearby neighborhood.
They say Christopher Jackson, 26, who lives on Laurel Street, is someone they’d like to talk to about the Sunday shooting in Paine’s Gray Hall.
Jackson is believed to be traveling with Ulat Young, who also lives at the same Laurel Street address, and is possibly traveling in her tan or light gold 1999 Ford Crown Victoria with GA tag BRX8779, according to a news release.
Sheriff Richard Roundtree has called the investigation, which involves two campus shootings and two off-campus shootings on Laurel Street, “very complicated.”
Speaking at a Wednesday briefing, Roundtree said the shootings might have started over a “bad drug transaction.”
“We don’t think this was a random act,” he said. “We think it was a targeted shooting.”
Roundtree pleaded for witnesses to come forward, saying there was much circumstantial evidence and several possible scenarios. Police offered a $2,000 reward for information leading to a conviction.
The dormitory shooting Sunday was followed by separate drive-by shootings on Laurel Street near the campus. A fourth shooting about 1 p.m. Monday in Haygood-Holsey Hall left student JaJuan Lawayne Baker, 21, of Wilmington, N.C., in critical condition with a head wound. He is expected to make a full recovery.
Xavier Deanthony Cooper, 20, a student from DeKalb County east of Atlanta, was arrested and charged with aggravated assault and possession of a firearm on school grounds. Police found him in a dormitory during a lockdown of the campus. The weapon has not been found.
Based on current information, investigators do not expect any additional or upgraded charges for Cooper.
According to Roundtree, police spoke with a witness who is an “associate” of Cooper. The witness was involved in a “bad drug transaction” with Baker before the shootings. Police also know one of the Laurel Street victims was on campus Sunday at the time of the first shooting.
“Right now that’s the only connection we have,” Roundtree said.
Roundtree said he could confirm whether the bad deal stems from the use of counterfeit money, but several Paine students were charged with possession of counterfeit money.
Officials also said several people, who were not students, had been banned from campus after being found on the property. Brandon Brown, vice president for academic advancement, said several students were sent home Tuesday for safety reasons. He would not clarify if the students had been expelled.
“We felt it would be in their best interests not to be here,” he said.
Police think more witnesses could help them connect the campus shootings to earlier incidents, like one several months ago where Cooper was assaulted at a business.
Cooper’s father told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Tuesday his son had lived in fear since the beginning of the semester after receiving death threats and at one point had started carrying a steel pipe for protection. The man said he had been in contact with school officials about the ongoing dispute.
Roundtree and Brown were not aware of any threats against Cooper, but Roundtree did say Cooper had been in contact with the sheriff’s office before this week’s incidents.
Roundtree said he believes there is no longer an active threat, but sheriff’s deputies will remain on the campus as the investigation continues. At the investigation’s end, the sheriff’s office will do a threat assessment to see if other safety measures are needed.
Brown said the school will continue to “move forward with its strategic plan” for student safety.
Roundtree praised Paine College’s police department for its actions.
Roundtree said Paine just happened to be a commonality between the shooter and victim and was therefore the location of the violence.
“We know they (Cooper and Baker) had ill will toward each other,” Roundtree said. “If they had worked together at a hardware store or grocery store the incident most likely would have happened there.”
Cooper, Baker and Jackson all have a criminal history.
The sheriff asked that anyone with information on Jackson’s whereabouts contact the sheriff’s office at (706) 821-1020 or 821-1080.