- Associated Press - Thursday, May 26, 2016

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - The mother of one of the two Southern University students killed in a shootout at an off-campus party last month led a rally at the Louisiana Capitol on Thursday, calling for an end to the silence that appears to be hindering the police investigation.

Theresa Tillman’s daughter, Lashuntae Benton, and another Southern student, Annette January, were shot and killed outside a Baton Rouge apartment complex on April 10.

More than a dozen friends and relatives rallied on the Capitol steps, wearing T-shirts saying, “Let’s Stop Black on Black Violence” and holding signs bearing photos of Benton.

“We want justice, we want it NOW!!!” one sign said.

Police said they quickly identified both men who traded the gunfire. Within hours, they arrested a former Southern football player on charges involving the wounding of the other man.

But weeks later, nobody has been charged in the deaths of the 19-year-old women, whom police describe as “innocent bystanders” caught in the crossfire. Now their families have joined authorities in urging more people who were at the party to tell police what they saw.

Tillman said she last heard from police about a week ago and believes investigators are doing “all that they can” to identify her daughter’s killer.

“As a parent, anybody would be frustrated with the situation - period - because you lost your child,” she said. “I’m being patient in allowing law enforcement to do their job and to take their time, because I do know that we want the right person brought to justice.”

Ernest Bernard Felton, 22, of Miami, remains jailed on charges of attempted second-degree murder and illegal use of a weapon in the shooting of the 24-year-old man who was wounded. Felton was on Southern’s 2012 squad but never played in a game and didn’t return to the team after the season, a school official said.

The 24-year-old man, who has since left the hospital, is not being identified by The Associated Press because he has not been charged.

According to a police report, people were gathered at a party at the apartment complex near LSU’s campus when the 24-year-old man pulled up in a Chevrolet Cobalt. One witness told police that Felton initiated the crossfire, shooting a handgun at the sedan as it approached the party. Investigators believe the shooting stemmed from a previous dispute.

Investigators now have preliminary results from ballistics tests, but “don’t want to be premature in making an arrest,” Baton Rouge Police Sgt. Don Coppola said.

“The detectives are still diligently working on the case,” he said. “We still feel that there are (witnesses) who, for whatever reason, have not come forward.”

East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney Hillar Moore called it a “complicated case,” with many witnesses who have made “many different statements” to police.

Benton’s mother hopes other people who were at the party will speak to police.

“I just believe that a lot of people are not speaking up,” she said. “If a lot of the other people present at the party would speak up, they would probably get a little further in their investigation.”

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

Dawn January, Annette’s mother, said during a telephone interview Thursday that she’s also trying to remain patient.

“I know it’s going to take some time, so I’m giving (police) the time they need,” she said.

State Sen. Yvonne Dorsey-Colomb, a Baton Rouge Democrat, embraced Tillman at the rally and offered her prayers and help.

“Somebody knows something,” the lawmaker told reporters. “We have got to stop that code of silence.”

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