Brandon Miller, a standout freshman on Alabama’s second-ranked men’s basketball team, was linked in court Tuesday to a fatal shooting of a woman last month in downtown Tuscaloosa.
Miles and Davis have been charged with capital murder. A 21-year-old junior forward who watched from the bench during a game earlier on the night of Jan. 14, Miles was quickly dismissed from the Crimson Tide program.
Alabama Coach Nate Oats said Tuesday that Miller is not “in any type of trouble.” He later added that authorities have told his program that Miller and other Tide players possibly at the scene are considered witnesses and not suspects in the case.
An attorney for Miller, Jim Standridge, said in a statement Wednesday that the player “never touched the gun, was not involved in its exchange to Mr. Davis in any way, and never knew that illegal activity involving the gun would occur.”
Amid calls for the university to take some form of action against Miller, Alabama’s athletic department said Wednesday that he was set to play in a game later that evening at South Carolina.
“Based on all the information we have received, Brandon Miller is not considered a suspect in this case, only a cooperative witness,” said UA Athletics. “Today’s statement from Brandon’s lawyer adds additional context that the University has considered as part of its review of the facts.
“Based on all of the facts we have gathered, Brandon remains an active member of our team.”
The courtroom testimony came during a bond hearing for Miles and Davis, who were said (via Tuscaloosa station WTUG) to have begun arguing with Harris’s boyfriend amid a scene of revelry in the early morning hours of Jan. 15. Det. Branden Culpepper reportedly told the court that Miles texted Miller and asked the latter to bring a gun belonging to Miles (via tuscaloosanews.com).
After Miller arrived in his car, per Culpepper’s testimony, Miles and Davis got into the back seat. Miles then allegedly said of the gun, “There’s one in the head,” meaning a round was loaded in the chamber.
Culpepper did not immediately respond to a request for comment. His testimony marked the first time another Alabama player has been officially connected to the fatal incident. Investigators also reportedly placed another member of the team, freshman guard Jaden Bradley, at the scene.
Standridge said that Miles, upon getting a ride from Miller earlier in the evening, “brought his legal handgun and left it in the back seat of Brandon’s vehicle.” Miller, he added, subsequently “arrived at the scene to pick up Mr. Miles … [and] never got out of his vehicle or interacted with anyone in Ms. Harris’ party.”
The attorney also took issue with reports that Miller used his car to help block the vehicle containing Harris from getting past. “The street was never blocked by Brandon’s vehicle,” he said.
“All of the events described above are clearly captured on video,” Standridge went on to state. “There is no dispute about Brandon’s activities during this evening.”
Miller, a 6-foot-9 forward from Tennessee, is averaging a team-high 18.7 points, which also leads the SEC. Some analysts regard him as a potential top-five pick in this year’s NBA draft, should he choose to turn professional.
At a news conference Tuesday, Oats told reporters he and others with the program have “known the situation” involving the investigation into the shooting.
“We’ve been fully cooperating with law enforcement the entire time,” he said. “The whole situation is sad.”
“Can’t control everything everybody does outside of practice,” added Oats, who is in his fourth season at Alabama. “Nobody knew that was going to happen. … Brandon hasn’t been in any type of trouble, nor is he in any type of trouble in this case. Wrong spot at the wrong time.”
Several hours later, Oats issued a statement in which he described his earlier comments as “unfortunate.”
“In no way did I intend to downplay the seriousness of this situation or the tragedy of that night,” he said. “My prayers continue to go out to James Harris’s family.”
Oats said his program had been “informed by law enforcement of other student-athletes being in the vicinity, and law enforcement has repeatedly told us that no other student-athletes were suspects — they were witnesses only.”
“Our understanding,” he added, “is that they have all been fully truthful and cooperative.”
Miller was rated a five-star prospect after earning national accolades and Tennessee player of the year honors in high school and became one of the most heralded recruits Alabama had ever landed. He recently helped the Crimson Tide reach the top spot in the Associated Press poll for just the second time.
Miles, who played high school basketball in Washington and Maryland before finishing at Florida’s IMG Academy, had seen little game action this season. He was sidelined with an injury when the shooting occurred. In addition to being ousted from the team, Miles was “removed from campus,” per a University of Alabama official.
Attorneys representing Miles said last month that he “maintains his innocence.” He has been held without bond at Tuscaloosa County Jail, where he and Davis will remain for the time being, a judge reportedly ruled Tuesday.
Davis was said by police to have been injured in the shooting when Harris’s boyfriend fired a gun. An attorney for Davis said in court Tuesday (via WTUG) that his client shot back in self-defense after the boyfriend opened fire first.