A UVa-Wise junior could face more than a decade in prison after being charged with the shooting death of an 18-year-old woman in his Norton mobile home the night before Thanksgiving.
Melquan Shabazz Huntley, 21, an administration of justice major and fullback on the Cavs football team, was charged with involuntary manslaughter and two other felonies following the Nov. 21 incident.
Police say Huntley was showing his 9mm Glock handgun to friends when it discharged, striking Jahnae Foster in the head.
Foster, a Big Stone Gap resident and the mother of an 8-month-old girl, was flown to Johnson City Medical Center and died a week later.
In statements to police and emails to The Highland Cavalier, Huntley said the shooting was an accident.
“Nobody was trying to hurt no one,” he wrote in an email.
The junior remains in custody at the Duffield Regional Jail on a $10,000 secured bond, awaiting a January hearing. He’s also charged with shooting within an occupied building, court records show.
Norton police Chief James Lane said more charges may follow as the investigation proceeds.
College spokeswoman Kathy Still said the 6’ 1”, 240- lb fullback was suspended from the football team pending the outcome of his charges, and banned from campus during that interim suspension.
Police were called to Huntley’s mobile home in the 600 block of Kentucky Avenue shortly before 11 p.m. on Nov. 21 and found Foster in a bedroom with a gunshot wound to the right side of her forehead, according to a criminal complaint filed by Norton police Capt. Roger Cooke in Wise County General District Court.
Court documents show Huntley appeared at first to give two different accounts of what happened that night.
Cooke wrote that Huntley agreed to speak with him even after being advised of his Miranda rights, saying the pistol “fell as he was trying to put it in a cabinet and discharged.”
But pressed by Cooke for more details, Huntley said he was doing a “military cleaning” of the weapon when it fired. Huntley said he didn’t know the handgun was loaded.
At least one other person besides Huntley was in the room when Foster was shot, Cooke wrote in the court documents.
“She [the witness] told me Melquan had brought the gun into the room to show them,” Cooke wrote. “She said she didn’t know exactly what happened to cause the gun to discharge.”
Another man, a UVa-wise student, was in the mobile home but told officers he did not witness the shooting.
The Highland Cavalier is not naming either person because neither has been charged nor testified in court.
Huntley enlisted as a private in the Virginia Army National Guard in April 2011 and is assigned to the Gate City-based 1032nd Transportation Company, 1030th Transportation Battalion, said Guard spokesman Maj. Cotton Puryear.
“He is a traditional Guard soldier, meaning that he drills one weekend a month and 15 days a year,” Puryear said.
Puryear said Huntley has been placed under an administrative hold in accordance with Army regulations “pending the outcome of the police investigation and subsequent court proceedings.”
“The unit chain of command will also conduct a face-to-face counseling with him, and he will also not be allowed to handle any weapons,” Puryear said.
Foster graduated this year from Norton’s John I. Burton High School and is the mother of an 8-month-old girl named Kimora.
Lane said her body would be taken to the chief medical examiner’s office in Roanoke for autopsy.
Alecia Holley, Foster’s mother, said her daughter died Nov. 28 after at least one brain surgery and a struggle to survive.
“She was fighting,” Holley said. “She was still fighting when we was unplugging everything.”
Holley said they decided to remove Foster from life support after consulting with doctors who said her daughter was in significant pain.
“I don’t want her to have to go through that,” Holley said. “I love her enough to let her not go through any pain. He already put her through enough pain when he shot her in the head.”
Court records show Huntley was appointed Big Stone Gap lawyer Charles Bledsoe as an attorney.
Before being re-arrested with manslaughter and held in jail, Huntley professed his innocence in emails to The Highland Cavalier.
“I never tried to hurt anybody and I wouldn’t never hurt anybody in that matter,” he said. “I’m sorry it happen (sic) but all I can do is keep God on my side and cross this milestone God has put in front of me.”