Three charged in Duquesne shooting; students react to incident

Last Sunday, school shootings hit a little closer to home.

Five Duquesne basketball players were shot and injured by a gunman at around 2 a.m. on Last Sunday after they attended a Black Student Union dance on the campus of Duquesne University, a private Catholic university in uptown Pittsburgh.

According to a statement released by Duquesne University, the basketball players, juniors Sam Ashaolu, Stuard Baldonado, Shawn James, and Kojo Mensah and sophomore Aaron Jackson were shot and injured after leaving the dance. Brittany Jones, a Duquesne sophomore, has been charged for allowing two armed men to enter the dance though she was aware that they were armed.

One of the suspects began firing on Academic Walk near Vickroy Hall and Duquesne Towers. About six to twelve shots were fired from a semiautomatic handgun, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

The Bureau of Police of the City of Pittsburgh has issued a statement that two Penn Hills residents, William Holmes and Brandon Baynes, both 18, have been arrested and charged with attempted homicide, aggravated assault, carrying a firearm without a license, and criminal conspiracy in the shooting. The two men are suspected to be the gunmen.

Jones has also been arrested and charged with criminal conspiracy. Jones, is suspected of playing a key role in the incident and has been suspended from the university.

The three suspects will be appearing for a preliminary hearing this week.

Ashaolu is currently hospitalized in serious condition at Mercy Hospital. He was the most seriously injured victim, with one of two bullets fragmented and lodged in his head. According to the New York Times, he is now breathing without the support of a ventilator and is able to talk softly.

Fellow student Baldonado, also hospitalized, is in fair condition at Mercy Hospital. He has undergone surgery to repair a damaged artery in his arm and a second surgery for the removal of a bullet from his back.

The other three victims were treated for their injuries and released. Mensah was injured with a bullet in the arm and shoulder. James was injured with a bullet in the foot. Jackson was grazed on the hand with a bullet.

The moments immediately following the shooting were stressful and chaotic as Duquesne students were bombarded with uncertainties and worries of friends caught in the midst of the shooting.

"It was hectic with all of the phone calls being made and the uncertainty about what had happened," said Ally Susko, a senior at Duquesne University. “Most of the people I spoke with called their families to let them know we were okay.”

Duquesne students express their confidence in the safety of their campus even after the shooting. The president of the university gave a speech to the students after the incident. Professors are still taking time out of class to discuss the shooting, and the university held a candlelight vigil last Tuesday to show the community’s support for the victims and their friends and family.

"This brought us closer together, not only as a university but as a family as well," said Paterra. "We just keep praying for the basketball players and their families."

Duquesne University is taking action to improve campus security. According to MSNBC, the university is forming a committee to examine safety on campus. Additionally, the university is upgrading existing campus surveillance cameras, allocating $250,000 for additional permanent police officers and security guards, additional campus bike patrols, and an additional parking garage patrol vehicle. They are also adding two new walk-through metal detectors and five metal detector wands.

"I still view Duquesne as one of the safest campuses in the United States,” said Laura Paterra, a senior at Duquesne. "Even after the incident, I still feel safe walking throughout the campus."

The Duquesne shooting follows on the heels of another recent campus shooting. On September 13, a gunman opened fire at Dawson College in Montreal, killing one and injuring 19.

“Something like this can happen anywhere in America," said Sergeant William Ricci of the Carnegie Mellon University Police. "It could really happen anywhere."

In light of the recent campus shootings, University police are examining ways to bolster security locally.

“We’re aware of the incident as are most universities across the country," Ricci said. "Everyone’s taking a look at their university’s security and looking for improvement."