Quick Lockdown After College Shooting

Devin Jackson, a student, with a law enforcement officer. Students at the Dover campus were told of the shooting less than an hour after it happened.
Devin Jackson, a student, with a law enforcement officer. Students at the Dover campus were told of the shooting less than an hour after it happened. (By Carolyn Kaster -- Associated Press)
By Daniel de Vise and Susan Kinzie
Washington Post Staff Writers
Saturday, September 22, 2007

DOVER, Del., Sept. 21 -- A fight over a card game escalated into a shooting Friday at Delaware State University that left two 17-year-old students from the District injured and prompted authorities to shut down the campus.

The victims were Shalita Middleton and Nathaniel Pugh, a D.C. schools spokesman said. Middleton, who was a cheerleader at Woodrow Wilson High School, was shot twice in the stomach and was in a hospital in serious condition. Pugh, who attended Dunbar High School, according to the spokesman, John Stokes, was shot in the leg and ankle. The dispute arose at a game night Tuesday, students said.

It was the country's first campus shooting since a gunman killed 32 people at Virginia Tech in April, and the university's response showed how much that day has saturated campus life. Less than an hour after the police received a call about the shooting around 1 a.m., administrators met and sent warnings by flier, Web site and phone and in person, knocking on doors in dorms. The lesson they learned from Virginia Tech, university spokesman Carlos Holmes said, was: "Don't wait."

Many students said their first thought was of Virginia Tech, of a gunman on a rampage. But the case was quite different: It happened at night and did not appear to be a random shooting.

"This was not an act of terrorism," said the campus's police chief, James Overton. "This was not a crazed gunman who found his way onto campus. . . . This was a Delaware State student who caused this action."

Students remained locked in their dorm rooms for much of the day Friday, with classes canceled, nonessential employees told to stay home and access to the historically black university restricted. Of the 3,700 students, 1,200 live on campus.

By Friday evening, two students identified by the police as "persons of interest" had been taken into custody. Still, officials said classes would be canceled Saturday.

Darryl Salley, a freshman from Washington who has been friends with Middleton since childhood, said the fight began after a game of Spades.

Police said the shooting happened after a group of eight to 10 students left the Village Cafe, a dining hall on the campus, shortly before 1 a.m. Four to six shots were fired at the Campus Mall, a pedestrian area, Overton said.

Ryan Robinson, a freshman from Bear, Del., had climbed into bed after writing a paper when he heard three gunshots. "Three seconds later" officers were there, he said, and he felt safe enough to peer out the window. "You just saw everybody running to their dorms, trying to get out of the way. . . . Maybe 150 people were outside trying to see what was going on."

In the chaos, he saw Pugh on the ground. He saw students pick Pugh up and carry him to a dormitory. "I just wanted to stay low," Robinson said, "get out of the way."

Minutes after the shooting, he heard a knock at the door. He immediately thought of the shootings at Virginia Tech, and he refused to open the door until he learned that the person outside was his hall adviser.

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