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Two shot by L.I. man at SJU

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By Dylan Butler

A St. John’s University football star was paralyzed after being shot in the spine early Sunday morning on the Jamaica campus of St. John’s University when he tried to act as a peacemaker and stop a nearby dispute, police and eyewitnesses said.

Less than 20 hours after Cory Mitchell, 22, a senior linebacker from Yonkers, was shot in the spine and a friend was hit in the leg, detectives from the 107th Precinct arrested Chris Prince, 21, of 130 Herbert Place in Elmont, L.I., Officer Joseph Cavitolo said.

It was the first shooting on the campus in recent memory.

Prince, who is not a St. John’s student, was arraigned Monday night on attempted murder and assault charges in Queens Criminal Court. Bail was set at $100,000 and Prince was due back in court on March 26, said Mary de Bourbon, spokeswoman for Queens district attorney.

Mitchell was shot once in the spine after a fracas in an off-campus bar continued near the newly build residence halls at 3:35 a.m. Sunday, according to police and eyewitness reports.

Rashon Fray, a 19-year-old who is not a St. John’s student, was shot in the right leg during the fight and was taken to New York Hospital Medical Center of Queens, police said. He was listed in stable condition before he was released.

Mitchell, who is not taking classes this semester and who reportedly is an expected father, was taken to Mary Immaculate Hospital in Jamaica where he was listed in serious but stable condition Sunday night.

A graduate of Roosevelt High School in Yonkers, Mitchell played four years on the St. John’s football team, but his career was felled by chronic injuries. He played 13 games for the Red Storm and had 107 tackles. His senior season was cut short after just five games when he broke his ankle in a 27-3 loss to the University of Albany on Oct. 19.

According to Juliet Lewis, a spokeswoman for Mary Immaculate Hospital, Mitchell was paralyzed from the waist down and the bullet was lodged in his spine. But according to Dr. Syed Shah, the attending physician who was quoted in the criminal complaint issued by the DA’s office, Mitchell was likely to be paralyzed from the neck down.

Mitchell has since been transferred to Westchester Medical Center to be closer to his Yonkers home, Lewis said.

Police say the shooting stemmed from a dispute earlier that night between two groups of men at Traditions, a bar on Hillside Avenue popular with St. John’s students, where the 6-foot-1, 266-pound Mitchell worked part time as a bouncer. According to students, the St. John’s Track and Field team hosted a party there Saturday night.

At the party Mitchell’s friends got into a fight with another group. When Mitchell and his group left the bar to head back to the campus, the other group followed, police said.

It was not known how the other car got past the lone open gate guarded by security at Utopia Parkway.

According to the criminal complaint, the dispute between the two groups resumed on the campus about 100 feet from one of the dormitories. That was where police allege Prince pulled a gun from inside his clothes and fired five shots into a crowd, hitting Mitchell in the back and Fray in the leg. The car then sped away and fled the campus.

Halim McNeil, 19, a sophomore on the football team, arrived on the scene shortly after the shooting.

“I was talking to him. I held his hand and put a jacket over him,” McNeil said. “He said he couldn’t feel his legs. I thought he was going to die. Thank God he didn’t.”

McNeil and a friend, who wished to remain anonymous, said if security had been patrolling the area, the shooting might not have happened.

“If they worked on the perimeter more and didn’t let people in late who are not students, this might not have happened,” McNeil’s friend said. “[St. John’s University] is suppose to be an escape from that.”

Jason Della Rosa, 19, a St. John’s sophomore who showed up at the scene about 10 minutes after the incident, expressed reservations about the safety of the campus.

“I’m surprised it took this long for something like this to happen,” he said. “It’s relatively easy to get in here.”

The Rev. Donald J. Harrington, the president of St. John’s University, said in a release he had ordered a full investigation of the incident and the security procedures, which a spokesman said had been tightened following the shooting.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with Cory, whom I know personally,” he said. “St. John’s University considers the safety of students and employees a top priority and is proud of its outstanding safety and security record.”

The school also set up the Cory Mitchell Fund to help financially support Mitchell and his family.

“I have heard from many people, both within and outside the university community, including parents, faculty and alumni, asking what they can do to help Cory and his family,” Harrington said. “In addition to their thoughts and prayers for Cory, this special fund will provide these caring individuals with another way in which they can help during this difficult time.”

Donations can be sent to The Cory Mitchell Fund in care of James Pellow, executive vice president and treasurer, St. John’s University, 8000 Utopia Parkway, Jamaica, N.Y. 11439.

Reach Associate Sports Editor Dylan Butler by e-mail at Timesledgr@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 143.

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