Delaware State Students Say Tension Was Obvious Before Shooting

Saturday, September 22nd 2007, 3:23 pm
By: News On 6

DOVER, Del. (AP) _ Tension between rival groups of friends from New Jersey and Washington, D.C., preceded the late-night shooting at Delaware State University that wounded two people, students said Saturday.

While investigators worked to find the shooter who opened fire early Friday as several students left a campus dining hall, a classmate recalled how the violence had escalated from altercations during the week.

``They've been getting into it, New Jersey people and D.C. people,'' said James Dillion, 23, of Cleveland.

``Thursday night, they saw each other again and got into it,'' he said. ``Everybody's still astonished about what happened.''

University and city police questioned two students described as persons of interest but released them Saturday. Police had not labeled either person as a suspect and no one was arrested.

Nathaniel Pugh, 17, was in stable condition Saturday with an ankle wound, while Shalita Middleton, also 17, was shot in the abdomen and in serious condition, officials said.

Mindful of the Virginia Tech massacre, administrators ordered a swift shutdown of the campus, directing students to stay in their dorms, posting notices on buildings and the school Web site, and lowering gates while police searched for the gunman.

``The biggest lesson learned from that whole situation at Virginia Tech is don't wait. Once you have an incident, start notifying the community,'' university spokesman Carlos Holmes said.

Administrators at Virginia Tech delayed notifying students nearly two hours after gunman Seung-Hui Cho killed his first two victims. By then, he had already started shooting 30 other people in another building. A report concluded that lives could have been saved if alerts had been sent out earlier and classes canceled.

Ali Muhammad, 18, a freshman from Washington, D.C., said that since the school year started he has heard of at least three fights involving cliques from New Jersey and the District of Columbia.

Earlier in the week, Muhammad said, a student from New Jersey cut the lip of a student from Washington with a key. ``They said it was over a card game,'' he said.

He lives in the same dorm as Pugh but said he did not know him well. ``I know he didn't have anything involved in the incident ... that led up to the shooting,'' said Muhammad.

While the police investigation continued Saturday, the campus was quiet.

``A lot of people went home yesterday,'' Muhammad said.

The Student Government Association posted a notice saying it plans a town hall meeting to discuss the shooting and ways to stop the violence.

Muhammad suggested that may not happen anytime soon.

``I think there's going to be something else that takes place,'' he said. ``When someone gets shot, there's always somebody that wants some revenge.''