2 university students dead in Louisiana shooting

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Two 19-year-old women who were Southern University students and members of the school’s athletic program were shot and killed early Sunday outside a Baton Rouge apartment complex, police and university officials said.

Detectives didn’t immediately identify any suspects or motives in the shooting, which occurred in a parking lot outside an apartment complex around 2 a.m., said Baton Rouge Police Sgt. Don Coppola Jr.

Lashuntae Benton, of Lake Charles, and Annette January, of Gary, Indiana, were killed in the shooting. January, a freshman, was a member of Southern’s track and field team; Benton, a sophomore, was a student athletic trainer.

Benton’s mother, Theresa Tillman, said police told her that her daughter wasn’t an intended target of the shooting near LSU’s campus. January’s mother said one of her daughter’s teammates said members of the track team were having a party at the apartment complex when the shooting occurred.

“She was just caught in the middle,” Dawn January said of her daughter.

A 24-year-old man also was wounded in the shooting but his injuries weren’t considered life-threatening, police said in a statement. Coppola said investigators believe the shooting occurred at a “social event” but didn’t immediately release any more details.

Benton and January both lived on Southern’s campus in a different part of Baton Rouge, their mothers said.

“My baby was a very vibrant child, a beautiful child with a beautiful heart,” Tillman said during a telephone interview. “Everybody loved her.”

January was the captain of the track team and member of the student council at her high school, Thea Bowman Leadership Academy in Gary, said her former track coach, Jerae Protho-Guider.

“Annette wanted to be the best at whatever she did,” Protho-Guider said.

Benton was pronounced dead at the scene of the shooting; January died at a hospital shortly after the shooting, Coppola said.

Flags on Southern’s campus flew at half-mast Sunday in their memory.

“The University asks for prayers and support for the families at this difficult time,” Southern University System President Ray Belton said in a statement Sunday.

Tillman said her daughter played softball, track and volleyball at her high school in Lake Charles and was studying sports medicine at Southern.

“She was very ambitious,” she added.

Protho-Guider said she recruited January to join the track team after seeing her running down a school hallway during her freshman year. January became a sectional champ in hurdles during her junior and senior years and parlayed her athletic and academic success into a scholarship at Southern, her former coach said.

“It feels like a nightmare, like I’m just waiting to wake up,” she added.

Dawn January said her daughter was outgoing and aspired to be an entrepreneur.

“She didn’t meet any strangers,” she said.