TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Two Washburn University football players who were shot outside of an off-campus house party hours after one of them was drafted by the New York Giants were “in the wrong place at the wrong time,” authorities said Monday.
The shooting early Sunday killed defensive back Dwane Simmons and injured cornerback Corey Ballentine, whom the Giants drafted in the sixth round on Saturday.
Giants general manager Dave Gettleman told SiriusXM NFL radio Monday that Ballentine was expected to join the team for its minicamp this weekend.
“He’s a really bright kid and he’s a great kid,” Gettleman said. “What happened is tragic and unfortunate. That’s his best friend he was with. We spoke to him on Sunday. He’s coming along fine. He’ll be here Thursday for the minicamp this weekend.”
Topeka Police Chief Bill Cochran said a preliminary investigation showed that Simmons and Ballentine were among roughly 50 people at the party, which was not specifically to celebrate Ballentine being drafted, The Topeka Capital-Journal reported. After a disturbance inside the home, the two 23-year-old players and some other partygoers went outside, he said.
A car containing two to four people — who were strangers to the men — pulled up and exchanged words with people in the street.
“We have no indication that any of the conversation was confrontational,” Cochran said.
Someone from the car apparently shot Simmons and Ballentine, but it was unclear Monday if the shots came from inside or outside the car, Cochran said.
The altercation inside the home and the shooting don’t appear to be linked, he said, and the people inside the car apparently didn’t attend the party.
Police were questioning more than 20 potential witnesses Monday. They also questioned Ballentine but hoped to do a longer interview later, Cochran said.
Police haven’t said how many times Simmons and Ballentine were shot. And no information on possible suspects or the vehicle has been released.
A candlelight vigil for Simmons will be held at 7 p.m. Tuesday on the Washburn campus.
On Sunday, Simmons’ father said his son’s death had “shattered a lot of people.”
“This was a senseless murder,” Navarro Simmons said at a gathering of family and friends in Kansas City.
Craig Schurig, the Division II program’s head coach, said Simmons’ death is heartbreaking. He said Simmons, a junior from Lee’s Summit, Missouri, maintained a great attitude, even while battling through two knee injuries. The team gathered Sunday to mourn his death.
Simmons told The Topeka Capital-Journal last fall how his injuries had affected his outlook.
“It’s more than a game to me now,” Simmons said. “I came in as a walk-on and had to earn a scholarship, then tore an ACL, redshirted and tore another one. It really puts everything in perspective that this game can be taken away from you in a blink of an eye. So I take this game to heart. I get emotional about this stuff and I take this game very, very seriously, and I’m having a great time.”
The Giants in a statement Sunday said, “Our thoughts are with Dwane Simmons’ family, friends and teammates and the rest of the Washburn community.”
Ballentine played in 46 games for the Ichabods, finishing with 186 tackles, four forced fumbles, three fumble recoveries and five interceptions. He blocked four kicks and averaged 24.81 yards on kickoff returns.