The recent New York Giants draft pick injured in a Topeka, Kan., shooting sent a message Monday to his slain Washburn University teammate, thanking him for being a "true friend."
"I love you forever," Corey Ballentine, a 23-year-old senior, said in a Twitter post about his roommate, Dwane Simmons, a 23-year-old player from Lee's Summit who was killed in the shooting early Sunday morning. "Thank you for letting me experience your life."
The post was the first time Ballentine has publicly commented on his friend's death. Ballentine said Simmons uplifted him, corrected him when he was wrong and accepted his flaws.
"Thank you," Ballentine wrote, "for being a brother to me."
The gunfire erupted about 12:45 a.m. Sunday at a party a few blocks from the university's campus. Ballentine was hospitalized and the university said he was expected to make a full recovery.
Simmons' family said they learned from detectives that Simmons and Ballentine were about to leave the party, put on by the college's women's soccer team, with other football players when a vehicle pulled up and the people inside asked them a question. When the car circled back, someone inside started shooting, relatives said.
Police have not released any suspect information.
Police Chief Bill Cochran told the Topeka Capital-Journal the players were "in the wrong place at the wrong time." The two were among about 50 people at the party, the Capital-Journal reported.
The killing left Simmons' family reeling as they tried to make sense of what happened.
"This was a senseless murder," Simmons' father, Navarro Simmons, said Sunday afternoon as more than two dozen family members and friends gathered at the southeast Kansas City home of Simmons' mother. "This shattered a lot of people."
A 2014 graduate of Lee's Summit West High School, where he holds a record in track and field, Simmons was a starter for the high school's 2013 state championship football team. He studied mass media at Washburn in the hopes of covering sports if playing professional football did not pan out.
In a statement Monday, the high school's current and former football coaches, Vinny Careswell and Royce Boehm, respectively, said Simmons would be missed by his Titan teammates. Simmons was loved by everyone, Boehm said.
"He was a favorite at our youth football camp with the kids because of his dynamic personality," Careswell said.
A vigil will be held at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the university's Kuehne Bell Tower to show support for members of the community affected by "this tragic loss," Washburn said. If it rains, the memorial will be in Memorial Union.
Police asked anyone with information about the shooting to call the Topeka Criminal Investigation Bureau at 785-368-9400 or the Shawnee County Crime Stoppers at 785-234-0007. Anonymous tips can be made online at p3tips.com/128.
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