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Florida State Tackle Is Killed in an Argument : Pablo Lopez Shot Outside a Dance on the Campus; Non-Student Charged

September 14, 1986|Associated Press

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — A Florida State University football player was shot to death early Saturday after an argument rekindled with a Tallahassee man outside a campus dance, police said.

Pablo Lopez, 21, a 6-foot-4, 281-pound starting offensive tackle from South Miami, was pronounced dead on arrival at Tallahassee Memorial Regional Medical Center following the shooting at 1:30 a.m. EDT outside Montgomery Gym, university police Lt. Jack Handley said.

Byron Johnson, 20, was charged with first-degree murder in the shotgun slaying of the junior from Miami, Handley said. Johnson, who is not a Florida State student, was denied bond at a court hearing and was held at Leon County Jail.

Two companions of Lopez and Johnson also face charges in the shooting.

Lopez had watched "Miami Vice" with teammates Herb Gainer, Pat Carter and Gaylon White before the shooting.

"It's so weird," Gainer said Saturday. After watching the television program, he said, "We were talking about people getting shot and killed."

The shooting stemmed from a disturbance after a prankster pulled a fire alarm and emptied the gym, Handley said. Johnson was with a group of people outside the building when a car drove up with Lopez in the passenger seat.

The driver, Florida State outside linebacker Edward Clark, 20, of Miami, drove through the crowd at a high rate of speed, investigators said. No one was injured, but Clark told police that Johnson had hit or kicked the car.

Clark stopped; Lopez and Johnson exchanged words, and Clark brandished a pistol before driving off, Handley said.

Meanwhile, Johnson left campus with Tallahassee Community College student Chevelle Bennett, 21, for a friend's apartment. Bennett told police that he thought Johnson was changing his clothes, but he apparently retrieved a shotgun.

About an hour later, Lopez and Johnson resumed their argument in the parking lot behind the gym as others stood near. Johnson is accused of taking a 12-gauge shotgun from Bennett's vehicle and shooting Lopez once in the stomach.

Campus police officer George Barber, who was nearby, disarmed Johnson and handcuffed him.

Clark then is accused of firing his pistol in the direction of Johnson and Barber, but he did not hit anyone. Clark, who fled, later spoke to police and was told he will face one felony count each of aggravated assault and discharging a firearm in a public place, Handley said.

Johnson waived his right to remain silent, admitted the shooting and acknowledged that he knew Lopez was unarmed, according to a police report.

Bennett faces a charge of accessory to murder, police said.

Florida State football Coach Bobby Bowden said: "I'm shocked and deeply saddened. I can't believe this has happened. Pablo was an excellent football player and an excellent person. He was never a problem in regards to his conduct off and on the football field."

Many players had left campus for the weekend because Florida State had no game.

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