Shooting now called a ploy to avoid Iraq

May 23, 2007|By Gadi Dechter | Gadi Dechter,Sun reporter

First they told police they were shot during a gas station robbery. Then they told detectives they had a friend shoot them in the legs as a ploy to avoid the initiation rite of the Omega Psi Phi fraternity at Morgan State University.

Now, a third story has emerged that one of the two wounded men -- David M. Briggs, a member of the Maryland National Guard -- might have contrived the shooting to avoid military duty in Iraq.

Darren Jackson, a Morgan senior and a member of the fraternity, said the other wounded man, Philip Anderson, had told him that Briggs had contrived the shooting as a way to avoid being deployed to Iraq with the National Guard. "I guess because they were friends, because they were boys from New Jersey, he didn't want to see his friend go to Iraq," Jackson said.

He said Anderson had called Monday to apologize for besmirching the fraternity's name.

The National Guard, for its part, says Briggs was in no imminent danger of being deployed.

It is the latest twist in a double-shooting last week that has left Morgan's Omega Psi Phi fraternity infuriated and has had police chasing multiple false leads.

Briggs, 20, of Plainfield, N.J., was arrested Monday and charged with handgun violations and making a false police report in connection with a shooting late Wednesday or early Thursday that landed him and Morgan student Anderson, 22, in the hospital with minor gunshot wounds to the backs of their right legs.

When the story Briggs and Anderson told -- of being held up at a Northeast Baltimore Hess station -- unraveled in the face of security-camera evidence that showed they weren't there, the pair changed their account. Police said the men alleged that they had asked a part-time Morgan senior, Xavier Marshall, 24, to shoot them in the 1600 block of Arlington Ave. near campus, according to Detective Sgt. Greg Robinson.

Police said two .380-caliber shell casings were found at the site during a search.

Police have arrest warrants out for Marshall and Anderson, officials said. Neither they nor Briggs could be reached for comment yesterday.

After obtaining what they regarded as confessions, police summoned the local news media Friday to explain the young men's startling motive:

"After interrogating the victims, it was determined that both were Morgan State University students pledging for a fraternity, and it was confirmed they didn't wish to go through their initiation," said lead Detective Albert Marcus at the news conference. "And to get out of the initiation, they plotted a shooting with each other."

Police declined to name the fraternity, but the department's public relations spokesmen joked with television news reporters at the news conference about the fraternity supposedly involved: the "Qs" or "Q-dogs," the nickname for Omega Psi Phi, a 95-year-old historically black organization.

Police sources later confirmed the fraternity named by the shooting victims.

Morgan officials said they were immediately skeptical of the pair's story. They said they doubted that a tiny fraternity chapter known for its community service activities -- and with only nine active members on a campus with a no-hazing policy -- could inspire such an extreme response in would-be pledges.

Also, the statement the police extracted had too many holes, they said. For one, Briggs had never enrolled at Morgan, said Recardo Perry, vice president for student affairs. Anderson was a full-time student, but his low grades did not qualify him for fraternity membership, university officials said. And finally, there is no summer pledging -- or "intake" -- at the historically black college's fraternal organizations.

"I believe that Morgan State University had our back with this situation," said Jackson, a senior from Long Island, N.Y. "But I'm upset that [Briggs] not only dragged my organization into this, but also put Morgan State, on the weekend of graduation, when we have very prominent alumni in Baltimore ... in a negative light."

Jackson and Anderson were acquaintances, and the latter had informally expressed interest in Omega Psi Phi but was not a pledge, Jackson said. As for the alleged shooter, Xavier Marshall, Jackson said he had never heard of him.

A spokesman for the Maryland Military Department confirmed yesterday that Briggs was an enlisted private assigned to the Soldier Readiness Battalion at Camp Fretterd near Reisterstown.

Briggs was a no-show May 15 for the start of about eight weeks of "advanced individual training," said spokesman Quentin Banks.

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