College Hill shooting suspect claims self-defense

George Melvin Harris III was arrested 7 a.m. Saturday; Brandon Gray remains in serious condition at Spokane hospital



Shots were fired early Saturday morning near the 1200 block of NE Myrtle Street.

NICK GIBSON, Evergreen roots editor

During his first court appearance this week, the suspect in the shooting that took place early Saturday morning on College Hill claimed he was acting in self-defense.

WSU student George Melvin Harris III was arrested around 7 a.m. Saturday in connection to the shooting on College Hill that killed one man and critically injured another.

The newly released court documents paint a blurry picture of what unfolded that night. 

Harris III told Pullman Police Officer Shane Emerson at the scene that he was “being jumped,” so he pulled out his concealed handgun and started “popping shots,” according to the probable cause affidavit filed in Whitman County Court earlier this week. 

Authorities identified WSU football player Brandon Gray and 23-year-old Liban Barre as the two victims of the shooting. Barre died from his injuries at Pullman Regional Hospital that night, and Gray remains in stable but serious condition at a hospital in Spokane, according to a press release. 

At his first court appearance, Harris III and his roommate identified Barre as their other roommate and said his death was a “tragic accident,” according to the Spokesman-Review. Barre had recently moved to Pullman with plans to enroll at WSU. 

It is not yet clear whether Harris III and Gray knew each other prior to the shooting.

Harris III’s bond was set at $100,000 on Monday. As of Wednesday, the Whitman County Prosecutor’s Office said it will not be filing charges against him at this time. Chief Deputy Prosecutor Dan LeBeau said this is an ongoing investigation and could not comment further.

At 12:30 a.m. Saturday, Pullman police officers responded to a report of a loud party on the 1200 block of NE Myrtle Street, according to a press release. As officers were on the scene, they reported hearing multiple gunshots and found two male individuals with multiple gunshot wounds — Barre was lying on NE Lybecker Street, and Gray was lying between two cars in the parking lot of an apartment building at 1235 NE Lybecker St. 

Officers let Harris III leave the scene that night under his own volition, despite finding him standing over an injured Barre with a Glock 19 on the ground that Harris III identified as his own. Emerson briefly interviewed Harris III at the scene and noted he had lacerations on his head that he was bleeding from, according to the affidavit. 

Harris III told Emerson he fired his gun in self-defense and that “they” shot back, according to the affidavit. However, Pullman PD recovered only Harris III’s gun from the scene, as well as several silver 9 mm casings that were later matched to the ammunition in the Glock 19. 

Emerson was not able to find who “they” were, as Harris III was being pulled at and told not to talk to the police by his friends, according to the affidavit. 

Harris III went to the Pullman PD lobby around 7 a.m. Saturday morning to “turn himself in.” He then invoked his rights and requested an attorney, according to the affidavit. 

Arresting Officer Josh Bray then spoke with Harris III’s father, George Harris II, at Harris III’s request, according to the affidavit. Harris II told Bray his son had called him earlier that morning saying he was jumped and started “shooting in the dark.” Harris II told Bray his son was not making much sense when they spoke. 

Bray then arrested Harris III for assault in the second degree. 

An eyewitness The Daily Evergreen interviewed that night said he saw a group of individuals arguing and “getting into it” when he saw a male individual pull out a handgun and fire it. At his request, the witness is identified only by his first name, Kaleb. He said he has given a written statement of what he witnessed that night to Pullman PD and will continue to cooperate with the investigators if needed.

Kaleb said he was leaving a party thrown by some of his friends when he witnessed the shooting take place about 5 feet from him. 

Kaleb said he immediately started running up NE Lybecker Street to warn other partygoers of the gun.

“I ran back up the hill to let everyone know,” Kaleb said. “I was freaking out. I was like ‘there’s a gun, run everyone.’ That’s when everyone started freaking out and running.”

Following the shooting, misinformation spread throughout Pullman. Rumors of an active shooter on Greek Row and multiple people injured circulated online, with social media accounts like BarstoolWazzu on Instagram and Twitter furthering the spread.

“When people were telling us at a party that gunshots were heard just a few blocks from Greek Row, our first thought was that it was a school shooter type of situation,” BarstoolWazzu said in a written statement. “I help run two social media accounts with a following of 40,000+. I’d rather put out information meant for people to stay inside and stay safe, than for people to feel unsafe and uninformed of what’s possibly happening.”

Following the shooting, multiple Pullman police officers responded to a report of a suspicious person in possession of a gun near Adams Mall on Greek Row, an officer on the scene said.

Officers patrolled Greek Row with rifles and advised people to stay indoors. One individual ended up needing medical care after she jumped from a window at a Greek house during the chaos, according to the police scanner that night.

Students scrambled to get home well before an alert was sent out by WSU notifying students of the shooting. The alert was sent around 1:50 a.m., nearly an hour after the shooting took place.