A South Carolina State University football player was shot and killed outside of Hugine Suites on Friday, launching a manhunt in the surrounding area for four suspects.
The student, 20-year-old Brandon A. Robinson of Goff Avenue, was shot about 1:30 p.m. and transported to the Regional Medical Center for treatment.
“South Carolina State University is saddened today,” S.C. State President Thomas Elzey said Friday. “We are saddened because of the loss of one of our students. Our deepest condolences go to the family of the victim.”
An autopsy has been scheduled for Saturday, the same day as the funeral for Robinson’s stepfather, Steven Rolley Sr. Rolley died at his home Friday, Jan. 17.
Officers continued their search for the suspects into Friday evening, focusing on the Goff Avenue area. Officials later said they believe the suspects have fled the area.
While the university has identified one of the suspects, campus Police Chief Mernard Clarkson did not release the name of the suspect, citing the ongoing investigation. A Claflin University campuswide alert contained the name and image of a suspect, but officials did not confirm it later.
“We are looking to talk to and identify four individuals that were seen leaving the area. At this time, we have not engaged those individuals or made contact with them,” Clarkson said.
The State Law Enforcement Division and its K-9 unit arrived to assist in the manhunt. SLED has assumed the lead in the investigation. The Orangeburg Department of Public Safety, the Orangeburg County Sheriff’s Office and the South Carolina Highway Patrol are also assisting.
Clarkson said a motive for the shooting was unknown Friday afternoon.
But he and Elzey assured students, faculty and staff that the campus is safe.
“The perimeter of the campus is secure,” Clarkson said.
The campus was on lockdown for about four hours Friday afternoon in an effort to ensure the suspects would not return to campus.
The lockdown was lifted shortly after 6 p.m. Clarkson said security on campus would be stepped up overnight.
“I want to assure parents that their children are safe on this campus, that they are in good hands and that their safety is of utmost importance to us,” Elzey said.
Elzey said the university will provide students, faculty and staff with grief counseling.
“We are pulling together as a community,” Elzey said.
An emotional Elzey said, “We again are extraordinarily sad about this. He was a very nice young man and it hurts. It hurts us all.”
Orangeburg Mayor Michael Butler, City Councilwoman Liz Zimmerman Keitt and S.C. State Board Chairman William Small attended a university press conference on the shooting, though none spoke. Elzey said Gov. Nikki Haley also offered her support to the campus.
Robinson was an Orangeburg-Wilkinson High School graduate. He lettered in football and wresting at O-W, was named to The T&D All-Area Football Team and was selected as player of the week by the Orangeburg Touchdown Club. He also ranked ninth in the state in wrestling in the 215-pound class.
He was a redshirt junior playing for S.C. State’s football team where he was a defensive lineman, according to S.C. State’s roster. He was majoring in industrial engineering technology.
Social media reports revealed S.C. State students were upset that they were not immediately informed by university officials about the shooting. Many said they found out about the shooting from friends on outlets such as Facebook and Twitter before finding out from school officials.
Lockdown sirens began to blare across campus at least 1-1/2 hours after the shooting incident occurred.
“As soon as we got the information and determined it was an ongoing imminent danger to the university community, we started relaying the information through the appropriate emergency mass communication system,” Clarkson said. “That worked well. At the university, previous tests have proven that the system is capable of delivering appropriate messages when the appropriate time is identified.”
Clarkson could not specify the exact time the alarms began to sound.
Claflin University was on lockdown for a couple of hours Friday as well, as is common when either of the universities is locked down.
At Claflin, Jerilyn Gamble, editor of the student newspaper, The Panther, reported that word spread quickly on campus about the incident.
“People from Claflin were calling and texting,” she said. Many messages urged people to stay safe as a search for suspects was underway.
The talk on Claflin’s campus is that the shooting incident grew out of an argument from a party on Thursday night, Gamble said.
She said students are reluctant to talk to media about the event, particularly S.C. State students, who don’t want their campus perceived as a dangerous place.
“It could happen anywhere at any university. This is not just something that happens at S.C. State,” Gamble said.
Clarkson asked members of the community to remain alert and report any suspicious activity.
It is not the first shooting on S.C. State’s campus in recent years.
In April 2011, a student was shot and killed behind an S.C. State dorm when a dispute broke out between some men over the quality of marijuana being sold.
Friday’s shooting comes a little more than a month after the university conducted an active shooter drill.
At that time, Clarkson said the drill was held because of the recent mass shootings on college and university campuses across the country. He described the campus as safe.
Some students at that time said they never received notification of the drill.
The university plans to hold a second drill in the spring with the full involvement of law enforcement and emergency personnel.
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