- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 23, 2007

DOVER, Del. — Tension between rival groups of friends from New Jersey and the District preceded a late-night shooting at Delaware State University that left two D.C.-area students wounded, students said yesterday.

“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.

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.

Police 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, university spokesman Carlos Holmes said.

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

John Stokes, spokesman for D.C. schools Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee, said Miss Middleton attended the District’s Woodrow Wilson High School. Mr. Pugh attended Dunbar High School.

“He’s just a regular student,” said Ali Muhammad, 18, a freshman from the District 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 the District with a key earlier in the week.

“They said it was over a card game,” Mr. 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.

At a press conference Friday, university President Allen Sessoms alluded to tensions on campus, which he said can be found on any college campus and which students sometimes bring from their hometowns.

John Stevens, 18, a junior from Laurel, Md., said that 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,” Mr. Stevens said. “Our character, our personality, our approach.”

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