Alabama's Brandon Miller could have stopped a tragedy. He didn't.
In the early morning hours of Jan. 15, a shootout erupted in front of a popular string of bars in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, just steps from Alabama’s campus. At least eight shots rang out, two vehicles were hit, and a 23-year-old mother named Jamea Harris was killed.
Later that day, an Alabama basketball player, Darius Miles, and his longtime friend from back in Maryland, Michael Lynn Davis, were arrested for the killing. It was a sad and tragic story all around.
On Tuesday, it got worse. At a hearing for Miles and Davis, more details emerged, including the presence at the scene of two additional Alabama players, Jaden Bradley and Brandon Miller.
Miller is Alabama's leading scorer, a National Player of the Year candidate and a potential NBA lottery pick for the second-ranked Crimson Tide. According to a Tuscaloosa detective, he is also someone who received a text from Miles that night requesting that Miller drive over to The Strip, a collection of bars and restaurants, and bring Miles’ gun with him.
Miller complied, according to AL.com reporting from the courthouse. He'd previously tried to go to a bar there, Twelve25 Sports Bar, with Miles and Davis but left because the line was too long.
On the return trip, police allege that Miller parked his car in a manner that blocked the Jeep that Harris, her boyfriend and a cousin, who is an Alabama student, were in. Bradley also allegedly parked his car in that manner.
There had been a dispute earlier between the parties that centered on Harris not being interested in talking with Davis, who allegedly told officers he was so drunk on tequila that he doesn’t recall a thing. An argument ensued — “It got a little elevated,” Det. Branden Culpepper testified, according to AL.com.
It was about to get even more elevated. When Miller arrived, Miles and Davis got in his car, according to testimony. It was there that Miles took the gun and then handed it to Davis, telling him, "There’s one in the head,” a reference, police testified, to a bullet being in the chamber.
With the gun in his hand, Davis walked up and “began firing through the driver’s side window of the Jeep,” AL.com reported. “He fired at least eight shots, some of them while running in an arc from the driver’s side around the back of the vehicle.”
Harris’ boyfriend used his own gun to return fire, hitting both Davis in the shoulder and Miller’s Dodge Charger twice. The boyfriend then was able to drive the Jeep away. He soon spotted a police car and, seeking help, stopped at the nearby Walk of Champions in front of Bryant-Denny Stadium.
Harris, the mother of a 5-year-old boy, was pronounced dead at the scene.
Miles and Davis are being charged with capital murder. Miller has not been charged with any crime, and an assistant district attorney told AL.com that “there’s nothing we could charge him with,” according to the law.
Perhaps there isn’t. Perhaps bringing someone else their gun moments before it becomes a murder weapon and perhaps having your car block the path of a vehicle just before that vehicle is riddled with bullets isn’t a crime in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.
Let’s be clear, though: Even if Miller is cleared of any actual legal charges, that doesn’t mean his behavior is excusable.
This was Miller getting a request to bring a weapon to someone he had to reasonably believe had been drinking, perhaps heavily, in a crowded college bar district and doing so rather than a) not doing it, b) telling his teammate to leave rather than escalate the situation, c) driving over unarmed and picking his teammate up or d) any number of other better options — namely, anything else. Even doing nothing would have been better.
Miles was in no immediate danger. If you have time to text someone to drive a weapon over, you also have time to walk away from the conflict. This is a college town. This was in front of a bunch of college bars and late-night diners. This wasn’t a stand-your-ground situation. This was an idiot blasting bullets all over Tuscaloosa.
If anything, everyone involved — Davis, Miles, Miller, the entire University of Alabama — is lucky that only one person died that evening on The Strip. Police estimate that at least 11 bullets were fired. That’s a bunch of unsuspecting and innocent Alabama students who could’ve been killed as well.
This was a tragedy that could've been an even worse tragedy, and none of the Alabama basketball players mentioned did anything but the wrong thing that night.
What happens next is the question. Miller might be cleared legally, but the response from the university and, eventually for him, the NBA is not settled.
Alabama basketball coach Nate Oats initially offered a bizarre dismissal of the situation in a news conference Tuesday. The statement was so tone-deaf that it suggested Oats didn't fully understand either the facts of the case, Miller’s true involvement and/or the question, which simply asked if he was “comfortable with [Miller’s] proximity” to the shooting.
That seems more likely than the alternative — that he is a truly dreadful person. Still, this is what he said.
“We’ve known the situation since [it happened],” Oats said Tuesday. “We’ve been fully cooperating with law enforcement the entire time. … We know about that. I mean, can’t control everything anybody does outside of practice. Nobody knew that was going to happen. College kids are out. Brandon hasn’t been in any type of trouble, nor is he in any type of trouble in this case.
“You know, wrong spot at the wrong time.”
He later released a follow-up statement trying to clarify his comments.
This was not the wrong spot at the wrong time. It was Miller bringing a loaded weapon to the wrong spot at the wrong time and everything getting more wrong from there.
Alabama’s season is on the brink now. No matter how this went before, it’ll likely be different going forward.
Maybe Miller keeps playing, or maybe he doesn’t. Maybe Alabama wins the national title, or maybe it all falls apart. Maybe Nate Oats has an explanation, or maybe he is that callous.
One young mother died last month in a sad and tragic situation. The details keep emerging, and none of them has been positive for Brandon Miller or the Crimson Tide.