Our Pledge To You

News

Gary teen among two college students killed in Louisiana shooting

Officials investigate the scene where two female Southern University students were killed at Baton Rouge, apartment complex. | Patrick Dennis/The Advocate, distributed by the Associated Press

BATON ROUGE, La. — Two 19-year-old Southern University students — one from Indiana — were killed during a shootout early Sunday outside a Baton Rouge apartment complex, police and university officials said.

Police arrested one of two men suspected in the shooting. Ernest Bernard Felton, 22, of Miami, is facing charges of attempted second-degree murder and illegal use of a weapon in the shooting of a 24-year-old man who was at a hospital with wounds that aren’t considered life-threatening. Felton has been ordered held on $90,000 bond at a Baton Rouge jail.

Investigators were awaiting results of ballistic analysis to determine who is responsible for fatally shooting Annette January, of Gary, Ind., and Lashuntae Benton, of Lake Charles, La., police said. Both were members of the school’s athletic program.

Benton and January were shot around 2 a.m. during a shootout between Felton and the man who was shot, Baton Rouge Police Sgt. Don Coppola Jr. said in a statement.

People were gathered at a party at the apartment complex near LSU’s campus when the 24-year-old man pulled up to the complex in a car. Investigators believe the shooting stemmed from a previous dispute.

A witness told police Felton initiated the shooting by brandishing and firing a handgun at the sedan as it approached him and others at the party, according to a police report. Nobody else at the party had a gun, the witness told police.

January, a freshman, was a member of Southern’s track and field team. Benton, a sophomore, was a student athletic trainer.

January had beencaptain of the track team and member of the student council at her high school, Thea Bowman Leadership Academy in Gary, said her former track coach, Jerae Protho-Guider.

“Annette wanted to be the best at whatever she did,” Protho-Guider said.

Protho-Guider said she recruited January to join the track team after seeing her running down a school hallway during her freshman year. January became a sectional champ in hurdles during her junior and senior years and parlayed her athletic and academic success into a scholarship at Southern, her former coach said.

“It feels like a nightmare, like I’m just waiting to wake up,” she added.

Dawn January said her daughter was outgoing and aspired to be an entrepreneur.

“She didn’t meet any strangers,” she said.

Benton’s mother, Theresa Tillman, said police told her that her daughter wasn’t an intended target of the shooting near LSU’s campus. January’s mother said one of her daughter’s teammates said members of the track team were having a party at the apartment complex when the shooting occurred.

“She was just caught in the middle,” Dawn January said of her daughter.

Dawn January said police informed her of the suspect’s arrest.

“It doesn’t change what happened. She’s still not here,” she said.

Benton and January both lived on Southern’s campus in a different part of Baton Rouge, their mothers said.

“My baby was a very vibrant child, a beautiful child with a beautiful heart,” Tillman said during a telephone interview. “Everybody loved her.”

Flags on Southern’s campus flew at half-mast Sunday in their memory.

“The University asks for prayers and support for the families at this difficult time,” Southern University System President Ray Belton said in a statement Sunday.

Tillman said her daughter played softball, track and volleyball at her high school in Lake Charles and was studying sports medicine at Southern.

“She was very ambitious,” she added.