Two LSU football players were detained and questioned about a shooting Saturday afternoon in Scotlandville that left one person dead in the back of a pickup truck, but the athletes were later released without being arrested, Baton Rouge police said.
[Update, 7 a.m., Dec. 23: Police say LSU football player shot man who tried to rob him and his teammate. Victim identified by police.]
Clyde Edwards-Helaire, a key LSU running back, and reserve linebacker Jared Small were questioned by police for hours after the shooting, according to the attorneys representing the athletes. The identity of the person found dead has not been released by authorities, pending notification of next of kin.
"We believe this is an act of self-defense and the evidence will show that," said Christopher Murell, one of the three attorneys representing Edwards-Helaire and Small, who are both graduates of Catholic High School in Baton Rouge.
The unidentified man was found dead in the back seat of a white Chevrolet Silverado just after noon Saturday in the 2900 block of 68th Avenue, Baton Rouge police spokesman Sgt. L'Jean McKneely said. The two athletes, Edwards-Helaire and Small, had also been in the truck and were the ones who called 911 after the shooting, McKneely said. He said the two athletes waited at the scene for police and cooperated with officers.
McKneely said he did not expect any arrest or charges to be filed against the athletes as of Saturday, but he would not comment on a possible motive in the shooting. He also did not identify anyone involved in the shooting.
Edwards-Helaire is one of LSU's top running backs and is expected to play in the school's bowl game on Jan. 1. Small, a redshirt freshman, is a linebacker who played in four games this season, according to the school's roster.
LSU released a statement saying only that Tigers athletes were involved.
"Right now, our concern is for the safety and well-being of our student athletes," LSU Vice Chancellor and Director of Athletics Joe Alleva wrote in a statement Saturday that did not identify the players or their sport. "They have been involved in a traumatic incident and we have made our counselors available to assist immediately."
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McKneely said police canvassed the neighborhood for other witnesses and the shooting remained under investigation Saturday night.
East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney Hillar C. Moore III was on scene with police investigators after the shooting.
"We just left the scene yesterday where we brought presents to a mother who was shot and is now paralyzed. You hate to see anyone hurt, injured, killed, stabbed at any time of year," he said. "This is going to be difficult on everybody involved."
Moore spoke with community members behind the police tape line while he was on scene. Other neighborhood residents gathered in the street on the crisp, blue sky day as they awaited word from police on the shooting.
"I don’t care which side of this you’re on, what family you are — this has to affect you, it’s going to affect them and it affects this community here," Moore said. "It's Christmastime, and it's something we have to deal with as a community."