Just hours after celebrating being selected as the New York Giants’ sixth-round draft pick, cornerback Corey Ballentine had to make a heartbreaking call to his college teammate’s family Sunday to tell them their 23-year-old son was shot and killed in Kansas.
Ballentine, 23, and Dwane Simmons, a defensive back who was entering his senior year at Washburn University, were walking home from a party near the university’s campus in Topeka when a shooter opened fire about 12:45 a.m. Sunday, FOX4KC reported. Simmons was pronounced dead at the scene while Ballentine was rushed to the hospital with a gunshot wound.
Simmons’ father, Navarro Simmons, said Ballentine called him from the hospital on Sunday to break the tragic news. The two had celebrated Ballentine’s accomplishment earlier Saturday.
"[Ballentine] said, 'No, Mr. Simmons, it's not good,'" Simmons recalled. "My heart just dropped and I just hopped up out of bed, I was scared."
Although few details have emerged about the deadly shooting, Simmons said his son and Ballentine encountered some men during their walk home early Sunday morning.
"Some guys rolled up and asked if they had some smoke or something else for sale," Simmons said. "Dwane and Corey said 'no' and they just drove off and came back around and opened fire. And killed Dwane, and we're just left in many broken pieces."
Topeka police said Monday they were still looking through evidence and asked witnesses who were near the scene to come forward. They haven't released a possible motive or identified any suspects, but said they hope to have more information in the next 8 to 10 hours.
Dwane Simmons’ family also urged anyone with information on the shooting to contact police.
"If you hear anything please speak up. Please go to the authorities. Dwane deserves justice,” Navarro Simmons told FOX4KC.
Ballentine, who was selected as the 180th overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft on Saturday, is expected to make a full recovery. The Giants said in a statement Sunday they were aware of the “tragic situation.”
“We are aware of the tragic situation and continue to gather information. We have spoken to Corey, and he is recovering in the hospital. Our thoughts are with Dwane Simmons’ family, friends and teammates and the rest of the Washburn community,” the Giants said in a statement.
Ballentine was the sixth Washburn University football player to be drafted and the first since 2008, when Cary Williams was selected by the Tennessee Titans, the university said. Ballentine appeared in 46 games and won the 2018 Cliff Harris Award for the small college defensive player of the year.
He was also the first Washburn player to be selected for the 2019 Reese’s Senior Bowl.
Ballentine celebrated being selected in the NFL draft on Twitter.
“It’s all a crazy dream until you do it. I can’t even explain the emotions I have right now. S/o the people that told me to pick a more realistic career. This is as real as it gets. Thank you to the Giants organization for believing in me. It’s only up from here. #GiantsPride,” Ballentine tweeted less than six hours before the shooting.