Some North Carolina Central University students walked out of class Monday morning to help bring awareness to what they said were unanswered questions about the recent shooting death of one of their schoolmates, DeAndre Ballard.
The coordinated display of unity came one day after protesters hit the streets of Durham to let the public to know that the suspicious shooting of the 23-year-old senior was far from acceptable.
Ballard was killed by a security guard on the night of Sept. 17 for allegedly breaking into cars in an apartment complex parking lot that was not on the HBCU’s campus. While the case was still under investigation, the security guard avoided criminal charges and has since returned to work after a brief placement on administrative duty following the shooting, the Herald Sun reported last week.
To make matters worse to Ballard’s supporters, the company that employs the security guard has defended the deadly shooting by repeating a familiar refrain heard after shootings by law enforcement.
“We fully, 100 percent stand by his actions because this was self-defense,” Kevin Ladd, vice president of the N.C. Detective Agency, told the Herald Sun. “In our eyes this is a tragic accident. It never should have gotten to this, but our officer was fearful for his life.”
Ballard’s friends and family were adamant that breaking into cars was “out of character” for the physical education major, according to local news outlet WRAL. They and NCCU students took to the streets of downtown Durham on Saturday to make sure the public knew about the shooting.
“People are watching, just not enough people, I think,” said Brian Best, who told WRAL he was one of Ballard’s best friends from high school.
The shooting was vaguely reminiscent in substance to that of Trayvon Martin, a teenager who was killed by a neighborhood watch volunteer on patrol in southern Florida in 2012. In that instance, the shooter, George Zimmerman, claimed self-defense and was protected under the state’s controversial Stand Your Ground law which allows citizens to defend themselves against threats, perceived or real.
While Ballard’s death did not involve the Stand Your Ground law that is also on the books in North Carolina, it did prompt questions. Chief among them is why a security guard would feel compelled to shoot someone for allegedly breaking into cars when all the had to do was contact the local legal authorities. Another pressing question was why it reportedly took three days to identify Ballard’s body.
Students on Monday also questioned how sincere NCCU’s response to Ballard’s shooting was.
Ballard’s killing came amid a spate of violence on or near HBCU campuses. A man was killed Friday near the campus of Southern Universty in Baton Rouge. One day earlier, a Morehouse College student was carjacked and robbed of his belongings near the school’s campus in Atlanta. Three Florida A&M University students had a gun pulled on them in an elevator at an off-campus apartment building in Tallahassee on Sept. 10.