Ronnie Caldwell, NSU football player, fatally shot after roommate pulled gun on him, family says
HOUSTON -- A Louisiana university has canceled its football season, after a player was shot and killed earlier this month.
When mold was discovered in the off-campus apartment of Northwestern State University football player Ronnie Caldwell Jr., he was moved to a different unit.
But, according to his family, Caldwell's new roommate was a non-university student. Attorneys for the family say that roommate pulled a gun on Caldwell, who reported the incident to his father. Despite assurances that Caldwell would be moved to a safer spot, he was shot and killed three days later.
On Saturday, Houston Christian University's football team was slated to play a conference game at Northwestern State in Louisiana. But less than a week ago, Northwestern State's season was canceled, and the team's head coach resigned.
This Friday, on the eve of that scheduled game against HCU, Houston-based attorneys told ABC Houston affiliate KTRK they plan to file a lawsuit seeking damages. The attorneys claim the university, an apartment complex, and former Northwestern State head football Coach Brad Laird failed to protect Caldwell.
In their first local TV sit-down interview, Houston-based attorneys working on behalf of Caldwell's family say the student-athlete's shooting death could have been prevented.
"They sent him away to school in order to get an education," Jonathan Cox of The Cox Pradia Law Firm said. "As his mom said, 'You expect your son to come back better,' but he never came back."
After the Northwestern State football team managed to play one game in the wake of Caldwell's death, last week Laird resigned - citing the emotional burden from Caldwell's death, and the remainder of the season was canceled. The university's president said the team's final four games were scrapped to preserve the well-being of those in the program.
"They say we didn't get an opportunity to finish the season - so it looks like we quit," Ke'Nard King shared via Zoom. "I feel like the coaches were really making the decision based on us - to make sure we were safe."
After siding with the coaches' decision to cancel his junior season, King then explained what it's been like losing a teammate and then losing his season.
"It's an unimaginable feeling," King admitted. "You wake up the next day, and everything you know has changed. Things up here will never be the same: recruitment, anything. Nothing will ever be the same, because you'll always think about the thought of a football player getting killed."
Caldwell was a football player and a son. His mother, Blanche Bradley, spoke to KTRK via phone from work.
"I'm on a playground with my students because I have to still support my household," Bradley explained. "Inside, I keep screaming, 'Why, Lord? Why nobody listened to my son? Why didn't you keep these kids safe? What were you doing to bring children to convince parents you were going to take care of their children?'"
Houstonian Andrea Odom of The Odom Group is handling PR for the Caldwell family. As the mother of former University of Texas standout student-athlete Dylan Campbell, she says this case is personal and professional.
"Blanche made one thing very clear: She wants to make sure that athletes are safe," Odom said. "We are bonded as mothers. For me, you send your kid away to college knowing that you have to trust these coaches. They're going to do what they say they're going to do, and they're going to have the best interest of your children at heart. To hear the pain in Blanche's voice is heart-wrenching."
Now, local attorneys say their impending lawsuit is the beginning of a journey to justice for the Caldwell family.
"No one should die in pursuit of an education, and essentially that's what happened here with Ronnie," Helen Daniel Holman of Daniel | Williams & Associates added.
Two individuals, including Caldwell's roommate, have been arrested on charges unrelated to his murder. KTRK spoke with Natchitoches, Louisiana police on Wednesday, and they said it's still an active, ongoing homicide investigation.