- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 22, 2007

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

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

Mr. Dillion said an altercation in a campus dining hall on Wednesday preceded the shooting early Friday morning.

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

The shootings, reported to police at 12:54 a.m. Friday, occurred as a group of students was walking across campus after leaving the Village Cafe dining hall. A 17-year-old male student was in stable condition with a wound to the ankle; a female student, also 17, was shot in the abdomen and in serious condition.
VIDEO: Police: Two DSU students ‘of interest’

Mindful of the Virginia Tech massacre, administrators ordered a swift shutdown of the campus Friday, directing students to stay in their dorms, posting notices on buildings and the school Web site, and lowering gates at the main entrance 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.

University police, who are being assisted by the Dover police department, questioned and released two students described as persons of interest. Police have not labeled either person as a suspect, and no arrests have been made.

Reports that the male victim, Nathaniel Pugh, was not cooperating with police were incorrect, Mr. Holmes said.

Mr. Holmes said police have yet to question the female victim, Shalita Middleton.

John Stokes, a spokesman for the District of Columbia schools superintendent, said Miss Middleton attended Washington’s Woodrow Wilson High School. Mr. Pugh attended Dunbar High School.

“He’s just a regular student,” said Ali Muhammad, 18, a freshman from Washington, D.C., who lives in the same dorm as Mr. 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 Mr. Muhammad, adding that a student from New Jersey cut the lip of a student from D.C. with a key earlier in the week.

“They said it was over a card game,” Muhammad said. “It was spades or Uno.”

Mr. Muhammad said he has heard of at least three fights since school started involving cliques from New Jersey and the District of Columbia.

At a news conference Friday, university president Allen Sessoms alluded to tensions on campus, which he said can be found on any college campus and which students sometime bring with them from their hometowns.

John Stevens, 18, a junior from Laurel, Md., said groups on campus differ in the way they dress and talk, and that some students might consider someone else’s behavior to be a sign of disrespect.

“Everybody’s swag is different,” Stevens said. “Our character, our personality, our approach.”

While police continue to investigate the shooting, the campus was quiet Saturday, with only a handful of students milling around.

“A lot of people went home yesterday,” Mr. Muhammad said.

According to a notice posted on the doors of the Village Cafe, late night hours have been suspended until further notice. The Student Government Association posted a notice saying it plans to hold a town hall meeting to discuss the shooting and ways to stop the violence.

Mr. 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.”

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