James: Woman, boyfriend argued before shootings

Updated: September 21, 2006, 1:49 AM ET
By Andy Katz | ESPN.com

The five Duquesne men's basketball players shot early Sunday morning were fired upon after walking away from a woman and her disgruntled boyfriend, neither of whom was a student at the university, one of the injured players told ESPN.com.

Shawn James (21)
AP Photo/Scott K. BrownJames (right), seen here in the CAA tournament, on what happened: "We told him we had no time for this and as soon as we turned away, two guys started shooting."

Shawn James, who led the nation in blocked shots while at Northeastern last season, said by phone Monday morning from his dorm room that he and his teammates were shot after they turned to head back to their dorms following a Black Student Union dance on campus.

James, who was shot in the foot, was treated and released later Sunday.

"It wasn't an argument," James said. "We were just coming from a party. This girl that everybody keeps talking about was just a female who liked someone on the basketball team. She was just casually talking to him.

"Her boyfriend called her over and they were arguing. Then the guy started saying stuff to us. It was our whole team. We told him we had no time for this and as soon as we turned away, two guys started shooting.

"It was just some girl who didn't go to the school. She had her arms around one of [the players] and hugged up on his waist and the boyfriend saw that. We were walking away, some five to 10 feet away from the guys, and then I got shot."

(The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported the woman, identified as Brittany Jones, 19, had brought several friends to the dance and one of the friends was her boyfriend, but ESPN was told by police that was not the case. Police arrested Jones on Monday, charging her with reckless endangerment, carrying a firearm without a license and criminal conspiracy.)

James said he started running, thinking at first that he might have injured a toe or sprained a foot. But he stopped, "took off my sneaker because it was burning, and saw the hole in my [left] foot. My sock was all red."

"I promise you, we were just walking away and then five seconds later, no more, there were shots. It was 12 or more shots. There were two shooters. The guys were just shooting at everything and everybody. The team was hit because we were all together."
-- Duquesne forward Shawn James

James said the bullet is still lodged in his swollen foot. He said doctors didn't initially see the bullet on an X-ray, and he has to return to the hospital to see if it can be surgically removed.

"I can't walk or put pressure on it," James said.

As of Monday morning, Pittsburgh police were still looking for the gunman or gunmen. James said there were two shooters.

James said he did not see his teammates get struck or players come to their aid, as Duquesne coach Ron Everhart described to ESPN.com and others Sunday night, because James fled to a nearby football field to escape the gunfire. He said he did see his friend and teammate, Siena transfer Kojo Mensah, get shot and then run to a dorm, where he was shot again as he opened the door.

"Kojo was the first one who got shot and he was yelling, 'yo-yo, they've got guns.' He was running and pushing people out of the way and he got shot in his back [shoulder] and then ran into the building," James said. "We ran in separate areas but Sam [Ashaolu] and Stuard [Baldonado] were in the same place where they got shot."

Ashaolu, in critical condition with a bullet lodged in his head, is fighting for his life, multiple sources said. Baldonado was upgraded to fair condition Monday; a bullet entered his abdomen and nipped his third lumbar, leaving doctors concerned about the condition of his spine, sources said.

"This is a major blow. I don't know how you move forward. It's not like we sit down and deal with this. We don't know if any of these guys will be in a basketball mindset and perform. We're not sure how we're going to do this."
--Shawn James

"I promise you, we were just walking away and then five seconds later, no more, there were shots," James said. "It was 12 or more shots. There were two shooters. The guys were just shooting at everything and everybody. The team was hit because we were all together. It was a regular campus party."

James said there were no metal scanners at the event, which was apparently open to the public.

"None of us were armed," James said. "We don't bring guns. We're not those kinds of people. We were just having innocent fun. I definitely feel safe here. I'm not sure why people would shoot at someone walking away from them. I don't understand that. The [shooters] don't go to the school and that girl didn't go to the school."

James said he can't stop thinking about his foot and his basketball career, as well as his two friends who are still hospitalized. He hopes Ashaolu will survive and Baldonado will be fully healthy.

James, 23, whose shot-blocking ability brings promise of an NBA future, will sit out the coming season and have two years of eligibility remaining. He averaged 6.5 blocks a game at Northeastern but wanted to follow his coach, Everhart, to Duquesne, moving from the Colonial Athletic Association to the Atlantic-10.

"When I first got hit in my foot, I didn't know how serious it was, how long I'd be out. I wasn't sure if it hit any bones," James said. "Mentally, this is really killing me if I won't be back 100 percent."

Duquesne returned only two players from last season's three-win team under former coach Danny Nee. James and Mensah are sitting out this season.

"To tell you the truth, I don't know, I really don't know," James said when asked what lies in store for Duquesne this season. "This is a major blow. I don't know how you move forward. It's not like we sit down and deal with this. We don't know if any of these guys will be in a basketball mindset and perform. We're not sure how we're going to do this."

Andy Katz is a senior writer at ESPN.com.

Andy Katz | email

Senior Writer, ESPN.com