A 20-year-old man is in custody after a shooting at Paine College that left one student critically injured Monday, police said. The violence happened less than 24 hours after a separate shooting on the campus.
Xavier Cooper, of Augusta, was booked at 10:41 p.m. Monday with charges of aggravated assault and possession of a firearm on school grounds.
The charges followed two days of gunplay at Paine.
About 1 p.m., Richmond County sheriff’s deputies were called to Haygood-Holsey Hall, a building housing classrooms and Paine’s administrative offices, Chief Deputy Pat Clayton said.
Deputies found 21-year-old JaJuan Lawayne Baker of Wilmington, N.C., on the third floor with a single gunshot wound to the left side of his head, above the ear, according to a sheriff's office incident report. He was taken to Georgia Regents Medical Center.
In a news conference at Paine’s HEAL Complex, Clayton read a joint statement from the sheriff’s office and Paine College, announcing that a suspect had been taken into custody. The suspect was found in a dormitory on campus.
“We’re being told by that particular person that he is a student here,” Clayton said. “We’ve yet to be able to confirm that.”
Investigators said the shooting was the result of a fight but would not elaborate. The weapon used had not been located Monday night.
Allen Meadows, a junior at Paine, was on the fourth floor of Haygood-Holsey Hall waiting for the start of his business applications class when he heard a commotion below him.
“We just heard this rumbling, so we thought it was a fight,” he said. “When we went outside of the classroom, I heard two shots. They told us to go back in.”
For about an hour, Meadows was locked in a classroom with four other people while police canvassed the building.
“We were scared,” he said. “At that time, they said the shooter was still loose and they didn’t know where he was in the building.”
Meadows was able to call home to tell his family he was safe. After the building was cleared, he and his classmates were whisked away to the HEAL Complex until the lockdown ended.
He said Baker was a classmate.
On Sunday afternoon, deputies were called to assist Paine police in a shooting at Gray Hall, one of the school’s dormitories. Authorities were still searching Monday night for two men who fired shots there, injuring a student.
Two students told police they were coming down the stairs in Gray Hall when they saw two armed black men in the building.
The students ran from the building as the gunmen fired shots inside the building before continuing to
fire outside, according to a sheriff’s office incident report.
A student who was seated outside the building was hit in the shoulder by bullet fragments. One of the fleeing students was injured when he fell while running. Both students took themselves to Georgia Regents Medical Center.
Witnesses told deputies that a burgundy Toyota was seen leaving the area after the shooting.
Clayton said it is unclear whether the incidents are related.
“We are still in the embryotic stages of the investigation,” he said.
When asked about measures the college took to ensure student safety after the first shooting, Brandon Brown, the senior vice president for institution advancement, pointed to a beefed-up police presence Monday morning.
“We took our measures in place with our emergency notification system and engaged students, letting them know what had transpired last evening,” he said.
“Under the direction of our campus police chief, Chief Nelson, he also added additional officers on duty this morning. We’ve also beefed up the presence of patrol(s) here on campus along the perimeter.”
Despite Sunday’s shooting, Meadows said he had no reason to feel unsafe at school Monday.
“I feel they actually did all they could,” he said. “When I arrived this morning, they did ID checks and vehicle searches. They did what they had to do.”
Richmond County sheriff’s investigators and Georgia State Patrol troopers spent more than three hours performing a room-to-room search on the locked-down campus after Monday’s shooting.
About 3:30 p.m., police announced that a person of interest was in custody, and a red Nissan Altima, identified as the suspect’s vehicle, was towed from campus. Clayton said the sheriff’s office was obtaining search warrants on the vehicle.
Nearby Georgia Regents University and several public schools in the immediate area also took security measures.
Twelve Richmond County schools locked down in response to the shooting: Lucy C. Laney High School, The Academy of Richmond County, the Alternative Education Center, Collins Elementary School, John S. Davidson Fine Arts Magnet School, Langford Middle School, Tutt Middle School, Lamar-Milledge Elementary School, T.W. Josey High School, A.R. Johnson Health Science and Engineering Magnet High School, C.T. Walker Magnet School and Monte Sano Elementary School.
With one suspect in custody, Clayton said, the school should resume today with an “augmented” police force.
“I believe the campus will be safe enough for them to come to school in the morning,” he said.
Paine will have a candlelight vigil today at noon at Gilbert-Lambuth Memorial Chapel.
Staff Writer Doug Stutsman contributed to this story.