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Southern distances itself from accused gunman, football recruit

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BATON ROUGE – Southern University said it was still trying to determine its relationship with the 22-year-old accused in a weekend shooting where two students were killed.

Ernest Bernard Felton was arrested Sunday, hours after the shooting at an off-campus apartment complex closer to LSU than SU. Monday, Felton's bond was set by a judge at $90,000. His bond is tied to the charges he faces for only injuring a third person; not the killing of the two college students. Police said they have yet to identify which one of the two suspected shooters shot and killed the women.

Police said Felton and the injured survivor of the triple shooting were in a gun battle in the parking lot of the Cottages apartment complex on Ben Hur between Burbank and Nicholson early Sunday morning.

Southern freshman Annette January and sophomore Lashuntae Benton were killed. 24-year-old Brandon Henderson was hit. Henderson is believed to have returned fire after Felton fired first, but police remain uncertain about how the events unfolded.

Click HERE to read more about Annette January and her mother's interview with WBRZ. 

January was shot in the chest; Benton was hit twice – in the head and arm.

The WBRZ Investigative Unit spent Monday tracking Felton's history. He had no criminal past in the Baton Rouge-area, and the district attorney's office was checking with prosecutors in Miami, Florida, where Felton is from to see if he had a criminal record in South Florida.

"Mr. Felton has asked for his lawyer from Miami and did not make any statements," Hillar Moore, the EBR DA said in an interview with WBRZ Monday afternoon.

As Felton sits in jail, police are running ballistic tests on bullets to determine further charges for those involved. Already, Felton has been charged with attempted second-degree murder and illegal use of a weapon in connection with the shooting of Henderson.

The victims were gathered a social function at The Cottages where many Southern University student-athletes had gathered, WBRZ learned Monday.

Felton, it appears, had been recruited to play for the Jaguars four years. According to football reports and rosters, Felton signed on National Signing day and had been offered a scholarship. Though, Southern officials distanced the university from Felton at a brief news conference Monday afternoon.

"I really don't know too much about this status here," Southern's interim-Athletic Director Roman Banks said. "In my findings, he never played on the football team. I don't know his status involving anything else with the university."

Although, students on campus remembered seeing Felton in class.

"I took one class with him. He seemed like a decent guy," student Tommy Manning told WBRZ Chief Investigator Chris Nakamoto in an interview featured on WBRZ News 2 at 5:00 Monday.

Court documents reveal that the 24-year-old man drove to a local hospial in his vehicle that had been struck by gunfire multiple times. He had multiple gunshot wounds to the chest and leg. 

A witness told investigators that Felton started the shooting by opening fire on the other man's vehicle. The 24-year-old victim returned fire from his vehicle. 

Also on campus, students remembered the two murdered victims. A football player talked about his close, personal connection with Benton.

"(Lashuntae Benton) was like my right hand," tight end Dillon Beard said. "During the summer I caught a full body cramp; she was the only person who came to the hospital supporting me and we had a lot of conversations," he said.

Southern University System President Ray L. Belton issued a statement Sunday morning:

"It is with deep sadness that the University confirms that two Southern University Baton Rouge female student-athletes were killed early Sunday, April 10, 2016. According to law enforcement, freshman track and field athlete Annette January of Gary, Indiana, and sophomore student athletic trainer Lashuntae Benton of Lake Charles, were killed by gunfire outside of an apartment complex in Baton Rouge near LSU, early this morning. An investigation is ongoing. The University asks for prayers and support for the families at this difficult time."

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