Alabama freshman forward Brandon Miller declined to discuss specifics about the fatal shooting of Jamea Jonae Harris in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, in January, but he called the entire situation “really heartbreaking.”
Miller spoke to the media Wednesday for the first time since Tuscaloosa police investigator Branden Culpepper testified on Feb. 21 that Miller had received a text message from his ex-teammate, Darius Miles, to bring Miles’ gun to the scene where Harris was killed.
Miles and his friend, Michael Lynn Davis, have since been charged with capital murder — Davis for allegedly firing the shot that killed Harris and Miles for providing the gun. It is considered capital murder in Alabama because Harris was inside a vehicle when she was shot.
Chief Assistant District Attorney Paula Whitley told AL.com on Feb. 21 that “there’s nothing we could charge [Miller] with.” Whitley has declined interview requests from ESPN, saying she doesn’t comment on active cases.
Miller had initially gone with Miles and freshman guard Jaden Bradley, who was also on the scene that night, to a bar in Tuscaloosa, but when the line was too long, Miller left Miles and Bradley there to go to a restaurant, Miller’s attorney, Jim Standridge said, and did not arrive until minutes before the shooting.
On Feb. 22, Miller said in a statement that he never touched the gun and never saw the gun and that it was hidden under clothing in the back seat of Miller’s car. Gunfire also hit the windshield of Miller’s Dodge Charger during the shooting. Standridge said Miller has fully cooperated with police.
“I never lose sight of the fact that a family has lost one of their loved ones that night,” Miller said. “This whole situation is just really heartbreaking. Respectfully, that’s all I’m going to be able to say on that.”
Alabama athletic director Greg Byrne went on a podcast with Rece Davis and Pete Thamel on Feb. 22 and explained the Crimson Tide’s decision to allow Miller to keep playing without suspension despite his involvement on Jan. 15. Byrne said it was a collective decision among him, Alabama coach Nate Oats, school president Dr. Stuart R. Bell and others at the university. Miller said that he has heard the chants on the road — at South Carolina, fans chanted “Lock him up” and “Guilty” — but that he has leaned on teammates, including when there have been questions about whether Miller should still be playing for Alabama.
“We hear the chants,” Miller said. “I just feel like we just really lean on each other to just go to places like that and just try to pull out tough wins.”
Miller also was criticized for his pregame introduction routine against Arkansas on Feb. 25, which had him patted down before entering the court. Oats, who called it “not appropriate,” said his players told him it was simulating a person being checked by the Transportation Security Administration before boarding a flight. Miller had done it for multiple games this season.
After the Arkansas game, Oats said it would not happen again. On Wednesday, when asked about how he noticed Miller handling scrutiny and whether he has changed, Oats said he believes Miller has taken it seriously from the beginning.
“It’s a tough situation for all of us and it’s just sad, to be honest with you, but I don’t, I never thought Brandon was flippant with any of it ever,” Oats said. “So as far as off-the-court goes, not necessarily huge changes, but I didn’t think there needed to be any big changes.
“He’s a great kid that, we’re all going through a tough situation together, and we’re just trying to lean on each other through this deal, to be honest with you.”
Wednesday was the first time Alabama had made players available since the Feb. 21 preliminary hearing.
Information from ESPN’s Jeff Borzello was used in this report.