3 shootings on, near Paine campus might be linked



Police think two shootings Sunday and Monday on the Paine College campus are connected and a third one near the school Monday might also be related, they said Tuesday.

Paine officials confirmed Tuesday that a man arrested in the Monday shooting on campus that left one student in critical condition also is enrolled at the school. Xavier Deanthony Cooper, 20, of Augusta, has been charged with aggravated assault and possession of a firearm on school grounds.

JaJuan Lawayne Baker, 21, from Wilmington, N.C., was listed in critical but stable condition Tuesday with a gunshot wound to the head. In a news conference at Paine on Tuesday, campus pastor Luther Felder II, who has visited Baker at the hospital, said he is expected to make a full recovery.

Brandon Brown, the vice president of institutional advancement at Paine, said police haven’t identified a motive in the shootings, deferring further questions on the investigation to the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office.

Richmond County sheriff’s Sgt. Michael McDaniel said Tuesday that it does appear all three shootings are related.

The incidents began Sunday, when Richmond County sheriff’s investigators were called to assist at Gray Hall dormitory. Shots were fired inside and outside the building, according to witnesses. One student was struck with bullet fragments.

On Monday, the campus was put on lockdown after shots were fired about 1 p.m. on the third floor of Haygood-Holsey Hall. Deputies found Baker with a gunshot wound to the left side of his head above the ear, according to a sheriff’s office incident report.

An hour before Baker was shot, police were called to the 1300 block of Laurel Street after residents heard three to four gunshots. One witness told police the shots appeared to come from the left passenger window of an SUV. No injuries were reported.

According to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Cooper’s father said his son has been living in fear since the start of the semester – at one point carrying a steel pipe for protection – because of threats from Augusta youths. Anthony Cooper said a group of men threatened his son and some other students from the Atlanta area for what they saw as moving in on their drug turf.

“These boys were coming to their dorm rooms and saying they were going to kill him,” Cooper told the Atlanta newspaper Tuesday.

Anthony Cooper said he has talked to school officials about the ongoing dispute, but Paine officials denied any knowledge of such incidents.

“We have not had that conversation with the father,” Brown said at Paine on Tuesday afternoon. “Certainly, this is the first that I’ve heard of that, so I cannot really comment on something that involves the investigation.”

McDaniel said at this point in the investigation, there is nothing to suggest any such dispute existed on or around Paine’s campus.

School officials said the shootings will not disrupt events planned this week. The college will move forward with final exams and hold commencement Sunday. Though students are allowed to take exams in a classroom, Brown said, they will have the option of taking their exams online.

“There’s a lot to be said about Paine College students,” he said. “They saw this terrible tragedy, and they’re still standing up. They’re concerned. They’re in prayer, and they’re worried about their school.”

Paine Police Chief Joseph Nelson declined to speak to reporters during Tuesday’s news conference.

Richmond County sheriff’s deputies remain at the campus to assist with security.

Sheriff Richard Roundtree has scheduled a joint news conference at the Health Education Activities Learning Complex at 10 a.m. Wednesday. Roundtree will be joined by Brown, Nelson and Paine President George C. Bradley.

Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports were used in this story.


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Sat, 01/20/2018 - 21:01

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