BIRMINGHAM, Al. — A fatal shooting in January involving members of Alabama's top-ranked men's basketball team, which cast a shadow over the Crimson Tide as they chased for a national championship, could be even deadlier, as video surveillance shows two players in a car that was hit by bullets in the exchange of gunfire.
The shootout, which sent bystanders scrambling for cover, killed Jamea Harris, 23, who was a passenger in the car. In the other cars that were hit were Brandon Miller, star player for the Crimson Tide, and Kai Spears, a freshman whose presence at the scene had not previously been reported.
Including Spears, at least four Alabama players have now been stationed at the scene of the shooting that occurred in the early hours of January 15, as bars emptied along The Strip, a popular student gathering spot near campus along University Boulevard in Tuscaloosa.
Darius Miles, a former Alabama basketball player, is in the Tuscaloosa County Jail on capital murder charges. He is accused of turning his gun over to Michael Davis, a childhood friend, who also faces capital murder charges and is accused of firing the bullet that killed Harris. Miles and Davis were charged by a grand jury last week. An attorney for Davis said Davis had acted in self-defense, while an attorney for Miles said in a statement that evidence not seen by a jury showed Miles was innocent.
Jaden Bradley, a new guard, was also at the scene. A review of surveillance video showed his car in a narrow lane that cut through College Boulevard, parked in front of Miller and Spears. Behind Miller and Spears was a Jeep with Harris in the front passenger seat.
The video shows Davis approaching the Jeep from behind, along the driver's side. Soon, flashes of gunfire were seen going in and out of the Jeep. After a few exchanged shots, Davis appeared to be run over and staggered backwards onto a telephone pole. He regained his balance and spun in front of Bradley's car while continuing to fire at the Jeep. Two bullets hit Miller's windshield. Neither attacked Miller or Spears.
“Sorry, I'm not going to be able to talk about it,” said Spears, a freshman who didn't play this season and who is the son of Marshall University athletic director Christian Spears. Kai Spears spoke briefly Wednesday in the locker room Alabama uses for practice ahead of its NCAA first-round tournament game against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi on Thursday. Miller also declined to comment.
As a result, the school is trying to distance itself from the shooting. Miles is dismissed from the team and kicked out of school within hours of his arrest, and the involvement of the other players—whom the school knows about—is kept secret as the Crimson Tide establish themselves as the toast of the Southeastern Conference and one of them. the best team in the country.
On February 21, a police detective testified at a pretrial hearing about Miller and Bradley's presence at the scene of the crime. She says that Miles has texted Miller, telling him to come pick her up and that “I need my joints”, referring to Miles' revolver, which he left in the backseat of Miller's car.
The detective also noted an unidentified passenger in Miller's car. Someone familiar with the case identified the person as Spears. The person spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive matters in the case.
In a statement following the publication of this story, Alabama department of athletics spokeswoman Jessica L. Paré said that “based on the information we have, no student-athletes were present at the scene other than Brandon Miller and Jaden. Bradley.” Paré has repeatedly refused to answer questions about the statement.
Christian Spears did not respond to messages seeking comment.
In recent weeks, Alabama has been criticized for continuing to play Miller, a decision Athletic Director Greg Byrne told ESPN was made in regards to the university's president, Stuart R. Bell. Initially, Alabama Coach Nate Oats characterized Miller's involvement as “the wrong place at the wrong time” before apologizing for the description.
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Another apology came when Miller continued what became a ritual during introductions at home games: holding out his hand while his teammate tapped him, as if he was looking for a weapon.
Miller, the 6-foot-8-foot forward who is likely to be a top pick in the NBA draft, has been a lightning rod since his presence during shooting became public knowledge. He had been playing very well, scoring 41 points — including the winning basket — in an overtime win at South Carolina in his first game after a pretrial hearing. Dan Miller was awarded the most outstanding player award in the SEC tournament after Alabama won the title Sunday in Nashville, near where he grew up.
He excelled despite being booed with chants of “lock him up” by South Carolina fans and “Bradon Killer” by Vanderbilt fans during the conference tournament.
Miller arrived at the press conference on Wednesday accompanied by an armed guard.
“If you guys saw some of what I've seen sent his way, I think you'll understand why that happened,” said Oats, who indicated that Miller had received anonymous email threats, but declined to elaborate.
A pair of Alabama fans turned up in the semifinals of the Southeastern Conference tournament on Saturday wearing tailored jerseys to fit heads — and some abs.
On the back, the jersey reads: “Kill our way through the SEC in '23.”
The T-shirt was so bad that the SEC said any fan wearing it would be barred from entering the arena for Sunday's championship game. A spokesperson for the conference said afterwards that security personnel did not see anyone wearing the T-shirt.
“This is meant to blow your mind,” said the man, who identified himself as Jimmy Johnson, of Mobile, Alabama, as he stood in the meeting room just after halftime on Saturday. The man, whose real name is Jason O'Rear, hung up the phone without answering questions Wednesday when contacted by the Times.
Last week he called the shooting a tragedy but said Oats and Miller were unfairly attacked, using expletives. “The media will cancel Miller,” he said. “Now, I don't condone anything about what happened, but I do know where the media will collapse and try to destroy a man's career. I know where the clicks are.
He was asked if he would have felt differently if his daughter had been killed.
“I don't know,” he said.
In Tuscaloosa, most of the bars along The Strip have closed this week and campuses are empty as most students have left the city for spring break. Few remain willing to discuss the shooting or the university's response to it.
“Jamea Harris has to live her life and raise her son,” said Walt Maddox, mayor of Tuscaloosa. “His murder, like every senseless act of violence, weighs heavily on all of us. Our words are not enough to comfort his family; however, our actions are important to ensure fairness.”
But in surveillance video, as Davis limped toward the parking lot – after firing at least eight bullets and being hit in the shoulder by one – Bradley, a freshman from Rochester, NY, got out and turned onto University Avenue.
As Miller follows them, the Jeep, with Harris badly injured, hits Miller and Spears, one bullet-riddled car screaming past the other in a tragedy that could have been worse.
Susan C. Beachy research contributions.