Police unravel shooting story

Two men affiliated with Morgan had another man wound them to avoid fraternity ritual, officers say

May 19, 2007|By Gadi Dechter and Gus Sentementes | Gadi Dechter and Gus Sentementes,Sun reporters

Two men whom police identified as Morgan State University students had a third student shoot them in the legs this week as a ploy to avoid a fraternity initiation process, authorities said yesterday.

The injured students -- who have been released from Good Samaritan Hospital -- initially told detectives that they were victims of a gas station robbery, said Detective Sgt. Greg Robinson.

No arrests have been made in the continuing investigation, though police say all three students might face charges including handgun violations, reckless endangerment and making a false statement to police. The student accused of being the shooter also may face more serious charges, police say.

"I've been on this job 32 years, and I've run into a lot of crazy situations," said Detective Albert Marcus, who is leading the investigation. "But to actually have a guy shot by a friend of theirs so they wouldn't have to go through the requirements of a fraternity is pretty stupid."

Yesterday, police would not release the names of the students involved, but a campus spokesman said police identified the shooting victims to Morgan's campus police as Philip Anderson, 22, and David Briggs, 20, both of New Jersey.

The alleged shooter was identified as Xavier Marshall, 24, a part-time student at Morgan, according to the spokesman, Clinton Coleman.

Though police said Briggs was a Morgan student, Coleman said school records indicated he had never enrolled, despite applying for admission and being accepted. Coleman also said university records show Briggs claimed a Baltimore address when he applied.

The shooting took place late Wednesday or early Thursday morning in the 1600 block of Arlington Ave., which is near Morgan's Northeast Baltimore campus, detectives said.

After shooting both victims in the back of their right legs, Marshall drove them in one of the victim's cars to Good Samaritan Hospital, according to police.

There, the injured students told investigators that they had been shot during a robbery at a Hess gas station in the 2100 block of Harford Road, police said.

But because of discrepancies in their accounts, police quickly suspected the robbery story was untrue, Marcus said. An investigation of the Hess station -- including viewing the security video -- confirmed those suspicions, he said.

Police asked one of the victims for permission to search his car, which was granted, police said. In the trunk, investigators found a .380-caliber handgun, Marcus said. A law enforcement source familiar with the case said the serial number on the gun was obliterated.

Faced with the evidence, the two who were hurt "broke real quick," Marcus said. They said they had been accepted to pledge a campus fraternity but wanted to avoid some initiation requirements over the summer, police said.

"They figured if they were both shot in the leg, they wouldn't have to meet the requirements requested by the frat," Marcus said.

Police declined to disclose the name of the fraternity, or what the initiation reportedly consisted of, but said no fraternity was suspected of condoning or encouraging the violence.

Coleman, the Morgan spokesman, said fraternities at Morgan have long been banned from any hazing rituals for initiation. He said pledging -- or "intake," as it is known at the historically black university -- takes place only in the fall semester.

"We're not aware, nor have we sanctioned, any kind of undergraduate summer intake to any Greek organization," Coleman said.

This is the second nonfatal shooting incident in less than a year involving Morgan students and false reports, which has forced city police to spend hours unraveling the facts.

In October, a freshman who was shot in the groin on Halloween told police he was the victim of a random act of violence. Later, police said that Dasheem Washington had been accidentally shot by a friend.

In the latest case, Robinson said, "We probably spent more than 100 hours for a fabricated story."

Police officials said they have not interrogated the alleged shooter, pending discussions about charges with the state's attorney's office.

They had reason to believe Marshall was not a flight risk, they said, but declined to elaborate.

The investigating detectives described all three as having clean police records. "These were three perfect children" who made a serious lapse of judgment, said Robinson. Neither of the injured students could be reached last night, but Marcus said they were contrite during his interrogation.

"I told them: `If you really want to get out of a pledge ... you could have done something simpler, like broke each other's arms,' " Marcus said. "`Why did you shoot each other? He could have missed, he could have killed you and your friend.'"

One of the victims hung his head in shame, the detective recalled. "He knew it was a completely outrageous story to come up with."

Morgan's spokesman said university officials were anxious to hear the outcome of the police investigation, but he added that the shootings should not reflect on the undergraduate population. He noted that both this week's and October's incidents occurred off campus.

Coleman said the Morgan community should not be alarmed by the two shooting incidents in the past year.

"The students that you are referring to most recently are apparently of no threat to anyone" but themselves, he said.

gadi.dechter@baltsun.com

gus.sentementes@baltsun.com

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