Alabama athletics: Report basketball walk-on Kai Spears was at fatal shooting scene is 'inaccurate'

Nick Kelly
The Tuscaloosa News

Alabama athletics labeled a New York Times story as "inaccurate" claiming freshman walk-on basketball player Kai Spears was also at the scene of the fatal shooting on the Tuscaloosa Strip on Jan. 15.

"Your story is inaccurate," UA athletics wrote in a statement Wednesday to the Times. "Based on the information we have, there were no current student-athletes present at the scene other than Brandon Miller and Jaden Bradley, who are both fully cooperating witnesses. From the outset, UA Athletics has fully cooperated with law enforcement and supported their investigation."

Spears also released a statement Thursday calling the report "100% inaccurate."

"The writer had complete disregard for the truth," Spears wrote. "I am trying to process and cope with these false statements that somehow have been published and then seen by so many. So thankful to Alabama Athletics for refuting it on my behalf. More than anything ... I remain completely heartbroken by the tragic death that occurred that night."

Spears' father, Christian Spears, is the athletics director at Marshall also released a statement on Thursday rebutting the report.

"I am just incredibly disappointed in the irresponsible and demonstrably false reporting by the NY Times," Christian Spears wrote. "We are exploring all legal options at this time. I will have no further comment, instead deferring to the University of Alabama's statement on the matter."

Attorney Stephen P. New also shared a statement on the family's behalf Thursday, stating the article is "demonstrably false." New wrote that Kai Spears was not in the car and not in the vicinity at the time in question.

"This irresponsible journalism has harmed Kai and his family, as well as the University of Alabama and Marshall University," New wrote. "I have reached out to General Counsel for the New York Times, with no response."

New said he is exploring all legal options available to the Spears family.

Alabama athletics director Greg Byrne also released a statement on Thursday, calling the report "inaccurate" and that it was untrue that Spears was present at the time of incident.

"Some inaccurate narratives have been reported about the involvement of Alabama student-athletes that display an unfortunate disregard of the facts," Byrne wrote. "We ask all to exercise careful due diligence before reporting on this sensitive situation."

Byrne said it is not Alabama's role to share details about a pending legal matter.

"We will rely on law enforcement to disclose information ifa nd when they deem it appropriate as we continue to fully support their investigation," Byrne wrote. "Questions about the incident should be directed to them. Nevertheless, we felt like we had to address the inaccurate report from last evening."

A police investigator testified during a preliminary hearing on Feb. 21 that the gun used in a fatal Jan. 15 shooting was transported to the scene in Miller's car.

Former Alabama player Darius Miles, 21, and Michael Davis, 21, who is not affiliated with the basketball program or university, were arrested and charged with capital murder after the shooting death of 23-year-old Jamea Jonae Harris.

Miller, a freshman and SEC Player of the Year, has not been charged with a crime, and his attorney said Miller never touched the gun, was not involved in its exchange and never knew illegal activity involving the gun would occur.

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Investigators believe the gun belonged to Miles, but believe Davis pulled the trigger. Both remained jailed without bond.

Miller's attorney, Jim Standridge, said Miles asked for a ride to a night club on the Strip and Miles brought his handgun and left it in the backseat of Miller's vehicle.

"Brandon never saw the handgun nor handled it," Standridge said. "Further, it is our understanding that the weapon was concealed under some clothing in the back seat of the car."

Miller didn't go in the nightclub, Standridge said. Instead, Miller went to a restaurant to eat before Miles later asked Miller to pick up him to take him to another location to join friends. After an hour at the restaurant, Miller first gave a ride home to another individual before picking up Miles.

Miles texted Miller asking him to bring his firearm, but Miller's attorney said that occurred while Miller was already on the way to pickup Miles.

Standridge said all of the events are captured clearly on video and there is no disputing Miller's activities.

"Brandon has submitted to multiple interviews to assist law enforcement in further understanding the situation, he has volunteered to have his phone contents extracted as well as that of the contents of his automobile," Standridge said. "He will continue to cooperate as any citizen should who has witnessed a serious incident. Brandon does not own a firearm and has never even handled a firearm. Moreover, he had no knowledge of any intent to use any weapon."