Police on Friday charged two Lexington men with murder in the shooting death of Jonathan Krueger, a University of Kentucky student and campus newspaper photo editor killed early Friday while walking home on East Maxwell Street.
Krueger, 22, a UK junior from Perrysburg, Ohio, died from a gunshot wound to the chest; according to the Fayette County coroner's office. He was found lying in the street.
A friend with Krueger was beaten and his shirt was torn, but he was able to get away, according to a resident who helped him.
Others who might be involved in Krueger's homicide were being sought, police Chief Mark Barnard said in a news conference Friday. Barnard declined to say how many might be involved.
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Justin D. Smith, 18, was charged with murder, robbery, tampering with evidence and evading police, Barnard said. Smith is not a UK student, according to police. Efrain Diaz, 20, was charged with murder and robbery.
Asked if he killed Krueger, Smith said, "No. Hell no," while he was taken Friday night from the police department to a waiting police car.
Investigators said they don't think there was a previous link between Smith and Krueger, Barnard said. But police are looking into the possibility of a previous altercation between them.
"We've updated the family on our investigation, and our thoughts and prayers are with them," Barnard said. In their conversation about Krueger's death, the father was "very upset, and understandably so," Barnard added.
"I don't think there is anything really that I can ever say to a family or victim that will ever make them whole again after something like this. ... It's very difficult for families," Barnard said.
Krueger was shot during a robbery about 2 a.m. as he was walking with another person on East Maxwell near Transylvania Park, police said. He died a little while later at UK Chandler Hospital.
Police found a vehicle that they think is the same one seen leaving after the shooting, Barnard said. The discovery of that vehicle led to Smith, he said. Barnard said officers found Smith at a house in Lexington on Friday morning and brought him to headquarters for questioning.
Police Lt. Clay Combs described an attempted traffic stop and a brief standoff about 6:30 a.m. at a house in the 2300 block of Le Havre Road, off Bordeaux Drive near Versailles Road. A man at the Le Havre Road house declined requests for comment Friday.
UK President Eli Capilouto said Krueger was walking home when the attack occurred.
In a statement sent to students, faculty and staff, Capilouto said, "Although this tragedy occurred off campus, it is a stark reminder that all members of our campus community should at all times be vigilant about their safety, and the safety of others. We are each other's keeper."
Although police haven't identified the man who was walking with Krueger, a resident of the area who helped Krueger's friend said he was a fraternity brother in the Epsilon Omnicron chapter of Beta Theta Pi.
Thomas O'Mara, who lives near the intersection of Transylvania Park and East Maxwell Street, said he heard two to three gunshots followed by a pause and then four to five more. O'Mara and his housemates first thought they were hearing fireworks.
Then they saw the man they later found out was walking with Krueger. The man sprinted down Transylvania Park. One of O'Mara's housemates called out to the man, "You okay?" He ducked behind a pillar on the porch of O'Mara's house and asked if he could trust them.
O'Mara said the man who had been with Krueger kept repeating: "We should call 911. I don't know where my friend is."
By that time, authorities had already arrived, so O'Mara and four others walked the friend to the police. O'Mara said they first tried to help the man find his friend.
"I don't think he could recognize the person on the ground (Krueger)," O'Mara said. "He said, 'My friend was wearing a hat.'" A hat was visible on the street after the shooting.
O'Mara said that the man they helped was clearly in shock and that his shirt was ripped.
He told O'Mara and his housemates that people drove up in a van, got out and jumped him. His watch and wallet were taken, but he got away and started running. When he heard gunshots, he did not turn back, O'Mara said.
Dazmond Morgan, who lives on Maxwell Street, said he was the first person to reach Krueger after hearing three or four gunshots outside the building about 2:15 a.m. Morgan said Krueger was alone when Morgan reached him. Krueger was jerking as he struggled to breathe, Morgan said. A neighbor came out onto the street to help, Morgan said.
He said police later questioned him and others who helped Krueger.
Krueger's body was to be taken to Frankfort for an autopsy Friday at the state medical examiner's office. WKYT-TV reported that police recovered a firearm on Cambridge Drive during their investigation. But city spokeswoman Susan Straub said later that she would not confirm that.
Krueger was in the UK College of Communications and Information and served on the Kentucky Kernel staff for at least two years.
Advising grieving students to reach out to friends, family and UK's counseling service, Capilouto said, "We extend our deepest sympathies to Jonathan's family, friends, faculty members and fellow students. We have reached out to his family to let them know that we are here to assist them in any way we can at the incomprehensible moment."
Diaz has pending felony charges in Fayette County, according to court records.
He pleaded not guilty in January to a first-degree burglary charge in connection with the 2014 burglary of a residence on Fort Harrods Drive in which he was accused of having burglary tools.
And he pleaded not guilty last year to a charge of possession of a controlled substance and criminal trespassing when police said they found him in a gated community in which he said he didn't know any residents. Police said they found an oxycodone pill in his pocket.
Records indicate that Diaz was released from jail after bonds were posted in each case.