College Students Killed

This photo taken by the Baton Rouge Police Department in Baton Rouge, La., on Thursday, June 2, 2016, shows Brandon Christopher Henderson, after being arrested on murder charges in the deaths of two Southern University students who were killed in a shootout at an off-campus party in April. (Baton Rouge Police Department via AP)

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — A man accused of starting a shootout that killed two Southern University students was arrested on murder charges Thursday, although police don’t believe he fired the deadly shots.

Brandon Christopher Henderson, 25, of Baton Rouge told investigators that he fired the initial shots in the exchange of gunfire that killed 19-year-old students Lashuntae Benton and Annette January at an off-campus party in April, a police report says.

Henderson, who was wounded in the April 10 shootout, was a student at Southern until the spring of 2014. He was jailed on two counts of second-degree murder and one count of illegal use of a weapon.

Another suspect — 22-year-old Ernest Bernard Felton, of Miami — was arrested within hours of the shooting on a charge of attempted second-degree murder in Henderson’s shooting. Felton, a former Southern football player, hasn’t been charged in the women’s deaths, but police said in a written statement Thursday that the case remains under investigation with “additional pending arrests.”

Police have described Benton and January as “innocent bystanders” caught in the crossfire.

A police report dated Thursday said investigators don’t believe Henderson fired the shots that killed the two students.

Marks on the bullets recovered from the women’s bodies didn’t match the type of handgun that Henderson “conceded” firing, according to the report. Marks on a bullet taken from Henderson’s body indicate he was shot by the same type of weapon that fired the bullets that killed the women, the report adds.


19-year-old students Lashuntae Benton (left) and Annette January (right). (Courtesy Photos)

Benton, a sophomore from Lake Charles, Louisiana, was a student athletic trainer at the Baton Rouge college. January, a freshman from Gary, Indiana, was on Southern’s track and field team.

Benton’s mother, Theresa Tillman, said police called her early Thursday to inform her of Henderson’s arrest. A week ago, Tillman led a rally at the Louisiana Capitol to call for an end to the silence that appeared to be hindering the police investigation.

“This is the beginning of justice,” Tillman said in a telephone interview. “Now I have to see it through. It’s not through for me until he is sentenced.”

An initial police report on the shooting said people had gathered at a party outside an apartment complex near LSU’s campus when Henderson pulled up in a car. The initial report said a witness told police that Felton had initiated the shooting by firing at the sedan driven by Henderson.

Theresa Tillman, Yvonne Dorsey-Colom

Theresa Tillman, left, listens to Sen. Yvonne Dorsey-Colomb, D- Baton Rouge, as she speaks at an anti-violence rally on the steps on the Louisiana State Capitol in Baton Rouge, La., Thursday, May 26, 2016. Tillman’s daughter, Lashuntae Benton, was one of two Southern University students killed in a shootout at an off-campus party last month. (AP Photo/Michael Kunzelman)

However, the new police report says Henderson told investigators Thursday that he “fired the first shots that initiated the shooting exchange.” Earlier, Henderson told police that he only began firing shots into the air from the driver’s side window of his car after he was shot, according to the new report.

Henderson also told police that the deadly encounter followed an earlier fight between his brother and a group of people at the apartment complex, the new report said.

Henderson was hospitalized for several days after the shooting. Southern spokesman Henry Tillman said Henderson was enrolled as a student at the university from the fall of 2009 until the spring of 2014 but didn’t graduate.

Felton, who remained in Baton Rouge’s jail on Thursday, was a member of Southern’s 2012 football team but never played in a game and didn’t return to the team after the season, a school official said. Felton was enrolled as a part-time student at Southern at the time of his arrest but has been suspended by the school, according to Tillman.

More than a dozen friends and relatives of Benton rallied on the Capitol steps last week, wearing T-shirts saying, “Let’s Stop Black on Black Violence” and holding signs bearing photos of Benton. At the time, Tillman said she believed many people at the party weren’t “speaking up” and telling police what they saw.

“I’ve always been satisfied with the police,” she said Thursday. “They have always done their job.”