Vigil held for slain Frostburg athlete

Questions emerge about relationship of other victim and former girlfriend

April 21, 2010|By Don Markus, The Baltimore Sun

FROSTBURG -- As students, faculty and administrators at Frostburg State University gathered Tuesday night for a candelight vigil in the aftermath of an early morning shooting Sunday that killed one member of the men's basketball team and injured another, the events that led to the fatal confrontation in this bucolic college town are still being investigated.

Tyrone Hall, 21, of Glen Burnie, has been charged with first-degree murder in the shooting death of Brandon Carroll of Waldorf and the attempted murder of Ellis Hartridge Jr. of Washington. According to police, Carroll and Hartridge went to Hall's apartment to confront him about an altercation Hall had earlier in the evening with a 20-year woman who has been described as Hartridge's girlfriend.

All are students at the Western Maryland school and the relationships between Patrice Britton of Baltimore and two of the men – Hall and Hartridge – might have been at the core of the confrontation that police said took place about 4 a.m., a couple of hours after a fight at an off-campus party.

According to the charging documents released Monday, Hall told police that he fired a shotgun after Carroll and Hartridge lunged at him. Hartridge, who was hit in the abdomen, is expected to recover. It was his relationship with Britton that appears to be what led to Hartridge and Carroll going to Hall's apartment.

Britton and Hartridge's relationship was called stormy and often violent.

According to court records, Britton and Hartridge sought protective orders against each other. The orders were filed in Allegany County District Court three days apart in December.

Britton filed for hers on Dec. 4, claiming the two got into an argument Nov. 21 about her holding a "small party" at the apartment they shared. Britton said she tried leave, but Hartridge sat in a chair blocking her way. He then pushed her into a table. Hartridge left, but returned the next day. Britton remained in her bedroom with a female friend who had stayed over.

Britton said Hartridge threatened to kick down the door and beat her up if she didn't open it. Britton said she complied and walked into the kitchen, where Hartridge pushed her against a wall. Britton said she hit him in the face, causing his lip to bleed. She told Hartridge she was calling the police and said he grabbed her by the neck. She then hit him in the head, she said, with a liquor bottle.

According to Britton, their past arguments had often resulted in physical confrontations. She wrote that in September, "he chocked me and I kneed him in the [groin] and said that Hartridge choked her "numerous times over the summer." She wrote that there was "constant pushing" last October and "he has a recording on his phone one day of us fighting."

Hartridge filed for a protective order on Dec. 7. He wrote about the Nov. 21 argument and about the physical confrontation the following day. He wrote that the argument was "over receipts she's been holding from me." (Britton had also claimed that he owed her $1,500 for the semester's rent.) Hartridge said that after she hit him, he called police, but Britton continued to "harass me on her Facebook page."

In one Facebook entry, Hartridge said that Britton wrote, "Who the [expletive] is the [derogatory word for an African-American] imma have to murder?? He doesn't know who he's [expletive] with!!!"

Hartridge said that Britton called him on Dec. 1, asking if she could meet him. They were still living together at the time. They finally met at a nightclub on Dec. 4, where she served him with the protective order.

"We started arguing and her friend came and pushed me away from her and I was then removed from the club," Hartridge wrote.

While the investigation continues, the campus mourns.

Hundreds of Frostburg students gathered Tuesday night on the school's upper quad, standing in small groups, holding candles and talking quietly among themselves. Many of the school's athletes came dressed in their warm-ups, including members of the men's basketball team, who stood in a circle saying a prayer and signing a basketball that coach Webb Hatch said they would present to Carroll's family.

After a short, silent vigil, school President John Gibralter led a procession through the campus to the school's physical education center and eventually into the main gymnasium, where a service was to be held.

Among those holding a candle was Sgt. Scott Donahue, a campus police officer for the past 20 years.

"It's really scary," he said of the first shooting among students during his time at the school. "It is just something that doesn't happen up here."

The crowd marched into the gym to Mariah Carey's "Say Goodbye." A smiling picture of Carroll was projected onto a large screen behind the stage.

Student government president Josh Humelstine, of Hagerstown, spoke of how the campus came together last Thursday in a harmony walk to commemorate a Martin Luther King Jr. convocation.

"It is my hope that in the face of the violence Brandon and Ellis experienced we would respond with nonviolence," Humelstine said. "We should leave here in unity and peace."

Choking on his words, Gibralter called the shooting a "deep wound that has been cut into the community's fabric."

He later added, "Brandon will not be forgotten. He will not be defined by this tragedy."

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