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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
News >  Crime/Public Safety

Pullman shooting suspect claims self-defense; victim reportedly his roommate

Sept. 27, 2021 Updated Mon., Sept. 27, 2021 at 9:46 p.m.

Pullman Police Department Sgt. Greg Umbright walks the scene of a shooting near the WSU campus Saturday afternoon in Pullman.  (Dan Pelle/THESPOKESMAN-REVIEW)
Pullman Police Department Sgt. Greg Umbright walks the scene of a shooting near the WSU campus Saturday afternoon in Pullman. (Dan Pelle/THESPOKESMAN-REVIEW) Buy this photo
By Emma Epperly and Sydney Brown The Spokesman-Review

PULLMAN – A 23-year-old suspect in the deadly weekend shooting near the Washington State University campus said he was “jumped” at a party early Saturday morning and fired his handgun in self -defense.

The shots struck and killed his roommate along with wounding a WSU football player, according to Pullman police.

George M. Harris III, 23, is jailed in lieu of a $100,000 bond on charges of second -degree assault. Friends described the killing of Harris’ roommate Liban Barre, 23, as a terrible accident.

Police responded to a noise complaint at 1215 NE Myrtle St. when they heard gunshots coming from NE Lybecker Road, one street over and just blocks from WSU’s campus, according to court documents.

Officers arrived to find Barre on the ground with gunshot wounds. Harris was standing over him and then told officers on the scene the 9 mm Glock 19 on the ground nearby was his, according to police reports.

As officers rendered aid to Barre, bystanders walked up and told them another person had been shot and was down the street, according to court documents.

Officers located WSU wide receiver Brandon Gray, 22, shot and injured in the parking lot at 1235 NE Lybecker Road.

Both gunshot victims were taken to Pullman Regional Hospital, where Barre died. Gray was flown to Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center in Spokane, where he remained in stable condition surrounded by family as of Monday afternoon, according to football coach, Nick Rolovich.

Gray, a redshirt junior, had not traveled to Utah with the football team for their game Saturday, a common occurrence for team members who are unlikely to play.

Harris told police on scene that he was jumped and quickly pulled out his concealed gun and began “popping shots.” He claims others shot back, according to court documents. Harris had a visible cut to his head and was bleeding, officers said. Police have yet to ascertain who Harris believed jumped him as his friends pulled at him to stop speaking with police.

Based on his initial statement, Harris sounded like he was a victim defending himself, said Jake Opgenorth, acting chief commander of the Pullman Police Department. Harris was allowed to leave the scene after the shooting.

Later, just before 7 a.m. Saturday, Harris came to the Pullman Police Department lobby and turned himself in to police before asking for an attorney, according to court documents.

Police spoke to his father, George Harris II, who told police his son had called him earlier to say he had been jumped at a party and that he was “shooting in the dark,” according to court documents.

After speaking with Harris’ father, police arrested him for second-degree assault.

At Harris’ first appearance Monday morning, his attorney said there “appears to be self-defense issues” with the case.

Harris’ mother, Tina Hendrix, echoed that statement.

“He was honestly defending himself,” she told the court.

Hendrix told the court her son is a good kid. He was set to graduate in December and already has a job lined up. Barre was his roommate, she added. Harris was involved in a bar fight in 2019 but was not charged for the incident and considered the victim.

Harris’ other roommate Jonathan Gonzalez told the court the shooting was an accident.

“George (Harris III) is not a threat,” Gonzalez said. “It was a terrible accident.”

Gonzalez is considered a witness to the incident, according to the prosecutor.

Police believe Harris was the only shooter after recovering only Harris’ gun from the scene, Opgenorth said.

Investigators intend to interview more witnesses, he said. Opgenorth said police still don’t know if Harris and Gray knew each other prior to the incident.

Harris’ bond was set at $100,000.

Colton Clark contributed to this report.

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