Gary student athlete killed in Louisiana mourned at home

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Many at Thea Bowman are mourning, especially Annette January's teammates on the track team. The school brought in a grief counselor of them, and are flying school flags at half-staff.

Charges have been filed against Ernest Bernard Felton, 22, in connection with the shooting death of Annette January and another student in Baton Rouge, La.

January, who is from Gary, Ind., was a freshman athlete at Southern University and was attending an off-campus party with friends from the track and field team early Sunday. January and her friend Lashuntae Benton, 19, of Lakes Charles, La., were shot and killed during an exchange of gunfire between Felton and a 24-year-old man following a verbal altercation, police say.

Felton is charged with attempted second-degree murder and illegal use of a weapon in the shooting. The 24-year-old man sustained non-life threatening wounds and is hospitalized. Investigators are awaiting results of ballistic analysis to determine who is responsible for fatally shooting Benton and January, police say.

A witness told police Felton "initiated" the shooting by brandishing and firing a handgun at the sedan as it approached him and others at the party, according to a police report. Nobody else at the party had a gun, the witness told police.

Annette January, 19, of Gary, Ind., was a student at Southern University in Louisiana.

Annette had earned a full-ride scholarship to Southern University and was scheduled to return home to Gary for summer break.

"She was every parent's dream. A student, honor roll. Everywhere she won, came out a winner, came out on top," said Treniece Hurt, a family friend.

Many at Thea Bowman are mourning, especially her teammates on the track team. The school brought in a grief counselor of them, and are flying school flags at half-staff.

"It was all just so sudden. It still really hasn't settled in," said Marvin Rea.

"It's devastating just because of the type of person she really was," said Moses Jones.

"She was like a role model to me, I always looked up to her ever since I came on the team," said Tychina Scott.

Her former coach remembers her as motivated, talented and likeable.

"She can be silly and she can make you laugh. We have a lot of moments of us just sitting back, laughing," said Jerae Protho-Guider.

Her former principal at Thea Bowman was saddened and confused by her shooting.

"Just leaving a stop the violence conference that we attended, that the entire high school attended, on Friday. And coming off of that, coming back to hear this news on Monday, I mean, it's just heartbreaking,' said Sarita Stevens.

"These two young ladies made pretty good decisions. They weren't somewhere they weren't supposed to be," said Roman Banks, Southern University Interim Athletic Director.

Her mother flew to Baton Rouge when she received news of her daughter's death and was on the university's campus Monday.

"One of my fears was that I wasn't there, that she was alone when she left, that she was alone. But she wasn't. She had friends there. She had people by her side. That helped. That helped me a lot," Dawn January said.

"As the Southern University family moves forward mourning the loss of Ms. Benton and Ms. January, whose promising lives were cut short, we are focused on providing support and comfort to the families and to our students. Words alone cannot fully describe the extent to which we are saddened," said Southern University System President Ray L. Belton in a statement released Monday.

The school's Student Government Association will hold a candlelight vigil Friday, April 12, at 6 p.m. in the courtyard of the Smith-Brown Memorial Student Union.

Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson also released a statement which said, in part: "Annette January, a 2015 graduate of Thea Bowman; in the top 10 of her class, a star athlete, fulfilling dreams and doing all the things our parents would like for us to do. Like others, it just doesn't make sense that the life of a young person poised for success would abruptly end through gun violence in our nation's streets. We must continue the fight and our work to take drastic measures to stop the flow of guns on city streets. On behalf of all of the citizens of Gary, we send our heartfelt condolences, our prayers and our love to Annette's parents, family and friends and to the Thea Bowman family."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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