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GSU student faces expulsion in school's gun probe

Jabarri Weston calls the episode, which is threatening his education and his future, a case of mistaken identity.

ATLANTA — On Sunday night, May 26, Atlanta Police responded to a call of shots fired on Auburn Avenue, just east of Piedmont Avenue, inside the sprawling footprint of Georgia State University’s downtown campus.

An Atlanta Police officer working a side job said he saw a man fire two shots. The officer wrote in his report that he then chased the man through a parking garage, only to see him escape into a Georgia State University building, the University Commons student housing center at 141 Piedmont Avenue, using a swipe card.

Three 9mm casings were later found outside the building at 206 Auburn Avenue. There was no property damage, there were no victims, according to the incident report.

As this was happening, Georgia State student, Jabarri Weston, 21, said he was picking up take-out at Mangos Restaurant, at 180 Auburn Avenue, a few doors down from the gunfire.

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When Weston saw all the commotion outside, people fleeing the gunfire, he said he ran for cover, too, out of the restaurant and back to his dorm, using his door card to get through the gates. Two hours later, he said he worked up the nerve to go back to the restaurant and get his food and then went home for the night.

Georgia State University Police say they have surveillance footage of Weston running into the dorms at 141 Piedmont Avenue, and using his door card to open the gates.  Atlanta Police have questioned Weston, but have made no arrests in their investigation of the gunfire on Auburn Avenue.

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Georgia State University police also questioned Weston. They searched his room and other rooms. They never found a gun.

GSU Police have banned Weston from campus while they continue to investigate whether Weston ran into the dorm and into campus property with a gun.

Weston said it’s “a case of mistaken identity” that is threatening his reputation, his college education and his future. Weston is a rising Senior majoring in public policy, planning and economic development.

Georgia State University Chief of Police Joseph Spillane said a “preponderance of evidence” points to Weston entering the dorms with a handgun. He said campus safety is “our highest priority” and that they "sometimes will ban a student temporarily” while they investigate whether the student poses a threat.

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"We have to find out whether or not this individual is a threat to our campus," Chief Spillane said. "And if he, in fact, carried a weapon into the dorm, we would consider him a threat to our campus."

Weston said he doesn’t even match the description of the man the Atlanta officer chased.

Most notably, the gunman with a “slim build with dreds," according to the APD report, would be a difficult match for Weston, he said, because he doesn’t have dreds.

“All I went to do is get food,” Weston told 11Alive. “I didn’t know that going to get food at night would suddenly get me kicked out of my dorm and accused of carrying a weapon onto campus.”

Bringing a weapon into GSU housing is a crime, according to Spillane, and while no gun was ever recovered, he said that was due to the “time lapse between identifying the suspect and searching the room.”

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He also noted that while criminal cases require clearing a reasonable doubt, Georgia State doesn’t need to meet any such burden simply to pursue administrative sanctions. And, on that, Spillane said he’s confident that security cameras, swipe card information, eyewitnesses and information from Atlanta Police all point to Weston.

The Chief said there is one witness, for example, who claims to have seen Weston tucking a gun into his waistband while running away from police.

Weston said he's never owned a gun nor possessed a gun, and he's sure surveillance video will clear him.

“It points the finger away from me,” he said. “Yet, Georgia State is pointing the finger at me.”

Weston can point to discrepancies between the Georgia State University Police report and the Atlanta Police report, GSU saying Weston fired the shots outside of the restaurant, while APD states the shell casings were found at the other address down the street. The GSU report also points to different dorms, Piedmont Central Housing at 92 Piedmont Avenue where Weston supposedly ran to escape, which is not where APD said an officer saw the fleeing suspect escape--the dorms of University Commons at 141 Piedmont Avenue.

Weston also wonders why, with all the surveillance cameras in the area that could clear his name, no video is being released, yet.

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Chief Spillane said GSU police are still investigating.

“We’re reviewing video, we’ve done lineups, we’re doing all kinds of investigative work to see, you know, to give him a fair chance at proving that he didn’t bring a weapon in the dorm,” he said.

As for the body cam video from the pursuing officer, Spillane said it merely shows the foot chase, he said it is not possible to identify the person the officer is chasing.

Spillane also acknowledged “there’s a possibility” that Weston is right, and that this is a case of mistaken identity, if the APD officer, in the confusion of people fleeing gunfire, accidentally ran after the wrong man.

"Perhaps the officer got confused with somebody else who was running from the scene," he said. "Perhaps he mixed something up at the scene where he thought that was the person that discharged, and it was somebody else."

Spillane said he planned to meet with GSU's Dean of Students on Friday to go over the investigation and decide whether to clear Weston, or have him submit to a formal university hearing to answer the information in the Chief's report.

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