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GSU student copes with sibling's shooting

Brother, friend shot in neck in Savannah attack

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GSU student copes with sibling's shooting

Jason Statts is shown in his Savannah home.

            The night of June 28 started off well for David Williams and Jason Statts.

            They had just performed with their Surt (the destroyer) band at Club Live Wire on Savannah's River Street. When the bar closed, the two friends with Statesboro ties went to the Ardsley Park neighborhood to meet friends.

            Instead, they met tragedy.

            Two strangers, men only 18 and 21, approached Statts and Williams around 3 a.m.,  asking "if they needed anything," supposedly meaning drugs. When Williams and Statts said no, they asked for cash. The two strangers were offered beer instead.

            Minutes later, Statts and Williams were on the ground, gasping for breath. Both were shot in the neck by a single bullet allegedly fired by Desmond Hunter, 21, of Savannah. The 18-year-old, Ashamir Johnson, was rifling through one of the victim's backpacks at the  time, and fled clutching William's cell phone and a pack of cigarettes, which he tossed into some bushes as they fled.

            Two men, critically injured, all for nothing.

            It's the senseless act that horrifies Katherine Briley, a 21-year-old Georgia Southern University student. Williams is her brother, and it pains her beyond description to see him unable to speak.

            His friend, Statts, may never walk again. Likely, neither will sing nor perform in their band.

            All for nothing, Briley said. Neither Williams' nor Statts' wallets were touched.

            Briley's family moved from out of state to Statesboro 13 years ago mainly because Williams was going to attend to Savannah College of Art and Design and his family wanted to be near him, she said.

            Her father worked for Publix, and when he could not be transferred to the Savannah store, he was moved to the Statesboro Publix, which is no longer open.

            More than 10 years later, Briley found herself married, her parents divorced, and her brother David still happily in the Savannah area, studying graphic design, printing and playing in two bands.

            Until the night of June 28, when all of their lives were shattered by a single bullet.

            David and Jason have been friends for a long time, and both guys were funny and friendly.

            "They'd have you in stitches," she said. "Even when David could not talk in the hospital he would write notes that were funny."

            Statts, an art director, has been married to wife Lyra for 10 years, she said. He was also a funny guy and "would do anything for a friend," Briley said. "This could not have happened to nicer people."

            To know Hunter and Johnson walked away, put down the beers Williams and Statts had given them, and then returned just to fire the shot that changed two lives forever, puzzles and angers Briley.

"David's been shot"

   She and her husband went to the June 28 show on River Street, and had just returned home when she received a call from her other brother Chris: "We have to go back to Savannah. Dave's been shot."

            The call was bone-chilling. "We didn't know anything other than that," Briley said.

            She called the Savannah hospital where David and Jason were taken, but could not get any information. When she called her mother, her brother Chris was on the phone with their father. Each parent lives about nine hours away from Savannah.

            "It was awful," Briley said, voice trembling, still affected deeply by the event that happened almost a month earlier. "He could have been shot in the leg, or the head – I had no idea."

            She said telling her mother was one of the most difficult things she had done in her life.

            "It was not easy," she said. "My mother and all three of her children are very close. I knew she was going to lose it."

            Toni Williams said she was hysterical the entire nine hours she drove from West Virginia to see her son.

           "When you have children, the first thing you check is if they have all their fingers and toes," she said. "Then you  think, how am I going to protect them from this world?"

            But Dave Williams is 31 years old, and "at that age you can sort of stop worrying about them," she said.

            But then, she received the call about her son being shot.

            "I can't even tell you how it was. I totally lost it," she said. "I grabbed my toothbrush, got my clothes on and left."

            Briley kept her updated by cell phone as she made the nine-hour trip, which seemed to last an eternity, she said. "It was a parent's worst nightmare."

            She, too, is baffled by the senseless act.

            There have been preliminary court hearings regarding the shooting, but more is yet to come, she said. In the meantime, Williams still has the bullet lodged in his neck, cannot speak and Statts may never walk again, she said.

            "Emotionally, it will be something we will never get over," she said.

            "It's nothing short of infuriating," Briley said. "You can't not be mad about it. What did anybody get out of this? I honestly don't even have a theory (about why Hunter allegedly shot the men). I have no idea, and I don't really care. No reason would be good enough."

            Briley has launched a campaign for stronger gun laws, claiming relaxed gun laws for people who legally bear arms makes it harder to control those who obtain firearms  – and carry them – illegally.

            She is also seeking donations to help Williams and Statts with mounting medical bills.

            Accounts have been set up for both men and donations can be made at any Wachovia branch to the David Williams Assistance Fund and the Jason Statts Assistance Fund.

            More information , with updates on Williams and Statts in addition to opportunities to donate via Paypal, can be found on the Web site

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