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USA Today Sports Media Group
USA Today Sports Media Group
Bryan Kalbrosky

Brandon Miller’s alleged role in horrific shooting leaves us with more questions than answers

“If there is any question about Brandon Miller, he answered it tonight with a career performance indeed.”

That was how ESPN play-by-play announcer Mike Morgan ended the call during an Alabama overtime road victory over South Carolina on Wednesday evening. It was an especially curious thing to hear Morgan say considering it was Miller’s first game since the public learned of his alleged involvement in the death of Jamea Jonae Harris.

Many are asking questions about Miller, but they have little to do with whether or not he could score a bunch of points during a regular-season road game in February.

The questions from the media, concerned sports fans and teams that may want to select Miller in the 2023 NBA Draft sound more like this: Did Miller intentionally bring a murder weapon to the scene of a crime? Did he use his car to block the victim from getting away? Did he do anything to de-escalate the situation?

ESPN’s Michael Wilbon wondered about as much during his First Take appearance on Thursday:

“There’s so much we don’t know and I don’t care about the basketball at all … What conviction is there from law enforcement or from his own legal defense team behind what we’re told are facts? What’s coming down the pipe? What else can we anticipate? What don’t we know?”

The answers that illuminate exactly why Miller was at the scene of the crime with a loaded firearm in his vehicle, unfortunately, may never fully come into the public light.

Regardless, his fans will have to make a conclusion about whether or not they can still root for him. Even if they do not glean all of the desired information, NBA front offices will still have to decide by the night of the draft if this is someone they want to have on their roster.

But in the meanwhile, here is at least some of what we have already learned: The late Harris was a 23-year-old mother who was shot and killed while in a car near the Alabama campus in Tuscaloosa on Jan. 15. Her 5-year-old son lost his mother.

Alabama men’s basketball player Darius Miles (who was promptly removed from campus and dismissed from the team) and another man, Michael Lynn Davis, were arrested and charged with capital murder on Jan. 17. The two remain held without bond in the Tuscaloosa County Jail. Their case is set to go to a grand jury and possibly trial.

Miles admitted during a deposition to Tuscaloosa Police investigator Brenden Culpepper that while it was his gun, it was Davis (unaffiliated with the university) who fired the weapon following a minor altercation.

As noted by Tuscaloosa Patch founding editor Ryan Phillips, however, many knew Miles wasn’t the only Crimson Tide player involved (freshman guard Jaden Bradley is also considered a witness):

“Several of us in the media have known since the morning of the shooting that other University of Alabama basketball players were at least in the periphery when Harris was shot and killed in the passenger seat of her Jeep as it sat on Grace Street. To what degree still remains a question from those of us on the outside.”

During the preliminary hearing held for Davis and Miles on Tuesday, a Tuscaloosa Violent Crimes Unit investor confirmed these rumors when he revealed Miller transported the firearm to the scene of the eventual crime.

Miles admitted he contacted Miller and asked him to bring him his gun.

Around 1:30 a.m. the day of the shooting, the freshman allegedly brought his teammate the loaded handgun that was used to kill Harris. Dan Wetzel mused on Miller’s decision (via Yahoo):

“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.”

Culpepper said Miles told him where Davis could find the gun in Miller’s car. Meanwhile, police testified that the windshield on Miller’s Dodge Charger was later struck twice by gunfire in the shooting.

Days after the public learned of Miller’s involvement, the freshman played against South Carolina on Wednesday. DeCarla Cotton, Harris’ mother, recently told Josh Peter that it was “unimaginable” seeing Miller on the court (via USA TODAY):

“When somebody says bring a gun to them, what do you think they’re going to do with it?’’ Cotton said. “And if there was no gun, she would not be dead.’’

During his First Take appearance on Thursday, ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith emphasized this point. He said Miller’s potential involvement should make it “very difficult” for the freshman forward to sleep at night. Instead, however, he says Miller is pumping his chest at opposing fans who are booing him.

It may be impossible to ever know the full extent of Miller’s involvement, but in the coming days and weeks, more details will likely continue to trickle out as the story continues to develop.

Already we have heard from Miller’s attorney, who is actively arguing that the Alabama freshman “never saw the handgun nor handled it,” and he has fully cooperated with law enforcement’s investigation.

We have also heard from Tuscaloosa chief deputy D.A. Paula Whitley, who told that “there’s nothing we could charge” Miller with, based on Alabama state law.

We have heard from Alabama men’s basketball coach Nate Oats, too, who shockingly said that Miller is not in any trouble and that he was simply in the wrong spot at the wrong time before backpedaling and apologizing:

“I want to make it clear that I didn’t have the details from the hearing that morning since I was coming straight from practice and I used a poor choice of words, making it appear like I wasn’t taking this tragic situation seriously, which we have throughout the course of it. I sincerely apologize for that.”

Alabama athletic director Greg Byrne echoed these sentiment, saying on ESPN’s College GameDay podcast he had no idea there were text messages between Miles and Miller until the hearing revealed as much on Tuesday.

As the situation continues to develop, it is easy to find yourself wondering: Why was Miller OK’d to play against South Carolina? Here is what ESPN’s Seth Greenberg said during the broadcast:

“A head coach is removed from the decision-making process regarding this situation … This situation will be handled by the university president, the board of regions, the athletic administration and law enforcement. [The] coaching staff has no say in anything that goes on in terms of playing or not playing or how the university is going to proceed moving forward. That is well above their decision-making process.”

That is obviously not true considering a coach decides exactly how much playing time someone on his roster receives, and Oats could have chosen to give Miller none now that the public has learned these findings.

But with Alabama as one of the top-rated teams in the country and Miller one of the best prospects in the 2023 NBA Draft, don’t expect to see Miller miss any time unless he is legally not allowed to play.

Don’t expect to hear him speak on the subject anytime soon, either.

One NBA scout, who spoke to For The Win under the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly on behalf of their team, said Miller’s future is now in the hands of the legal system.

This is a troubling, tragic story and we don’t yet know how it will end. But over the course of the coming months, there are essentially two paths that we can expect to see Miller follow.

“If he doesn’t get arrested he’s [a] top-5 [in the NBA Draft],” said the scout. “If he’s arrested, he going to jail.”

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