PITTSBURGH – Five Duquesne basketball players were shot on campus early Sunday, leaving at least one critically injured, after some of them tried to calm a man who apparently had been disruptive at a dance, officials said.
Police searched for the gunman, and the downtown school stepped up its round-the-clock police protection with armed university police officers guarding dormitories and other buildings.
Two players had been walking near a dormitory when they encountered a man who apparently had been disruptive at a student union dance, authorities said. The players attempted to pacify him and walked away but were shot. Players who rushed to their aid were also shot.
The gunman and a group of people with him were not students, university president Charles Dougherty said. Several witnesses saw the gunman leave campus after the shots were fired.
In critical condition was forward Sam Ashaolu of Toronto, a transfer from Lake Region State College and a cousin of former Houston Rockets star Hakeem Olajuwon. In serious condition was Stuard Baldonado of Colombia, a transfer from Miami Dade College who was considered the school's best recruit.
Also hospitalized was Kojo Mensah, a guard from New York City who averaged nearly 17 points last season at Siena College before transferring, school officials said at a news conference Sunday. His condition was not released.
Treated and released were Shawn James of New York City, the nation's leading shot blocker last season at Northeastern University before transferring to Duquesne; and Aaron Jackson of Hartford, Conn., a guard who is one of only two returning players from Duquesne's 3-24 team last season.
Witnesses reported seeing two guns, Dougherty said, but he couldn't confirm whether both were fired. The second gun was seen on someone in a group with the gunman, Dougherty said.
Six to 12 shots were fired, he said. He did not know what sparked the violence.
"What motive can there be for unloading a pistol into a group of students?" Dougherty said.
James, an NBA prospect expected to be Duquesne's top player when he becomes eligible in the 2007-08 season, was shot in the foot but no bones were broken. Mensah was believed shot in the shoulder. Jackson was shot in the hand.
"The entire Duquesne University community is saddened and shocked," Dougherty said. "We're shocked because an event of this sort has never happened. It's a safe campus and known to be a safe campus."
Students wrestled with how the shootings could affect the reputation of their campus, long considered safe.
Freshman Harold Kolonich, walking with his parents near the campus Sunday night, had few worries.
"I still trust the atmosphere. Duquesne is still a safe campus," he said. "It's unfortunate stuff like that happens. It's a wonderful place to be."
Junior Katie Hauser, 20, of Latrobe, said she only attends Sunday evening Mass once in a while, but went Sunday because of the shooting.
"It's really good everyone came together," she said. "You feel a little bit closer."
Ralph Gigliotti, president of the student body, called the event "unprecedented."
"With the values we uphold here and believe in, I do not think this will harm our reputation."
Duquesne University is a private Catholic institution with nearly 10,000 undergraduate and graduate students.
At the school's regular Sunday night Mass, the Rev. Timothy Hickey asked more than 300 students in the packed chapel to pray for the victims.
"As we come together we acknowledge our shock and sadness about what happened here," he said.
"Their healing is our utmost concern," Hickey said. "We are a tight-knit community, and what affects one of us affects all of us. We are family and we care for one another."
Duquesne coach Ron Everhart, formerly at Northeastern, had rebuilt the school's program after being hired in March by bringing in 10 recruits — one of the most sweeping upheavals of any Division I program in recent years.