A settlement has been reached with one of the defendants in the wrongful-death lawsuit of Najee Ali Baker, the Winston-Salem State University (WSSU) student who was shot and killed on Wake Forest’s campus in January 2018, the Winston-Salem Journal reported.
The settlement has been reached between the university’s chapter of Delta Sigma Theta and Baker’s mother, Jemel Dixon, who filed the lawsuit on behalf of her son’s estate back in May 2019. Claims against the other defendants — including the university and Rhino Sports & Entertainment Services LLC, which provided security at the event where Baker was shot — are still pending.
On Jan. 19, 2018, the university’s chapter of Delta Sigma Theta hosted an event at the Barn, where a fight broke out and moved outside. Around 1 a.m. on Jan. 20, 2018, Baker, was fatally shot.
Jakier Shanique Austin, now 23, was charged with muder, and Malik Patience Smith, now 18, faces two gun possession charges and a charge of assault for holding the crowds at gunpoint. Neither of them were students at Wake Forest or WSSU.
Austin was arrested and charged with Baker’s murder in April 2018 and is being held without bond. Smith was arrested in January 2018 and released in April 2019. However, the Journal reported earlier this week that Smith is in jail again, being held without bond, after being charged with assault in a separate incident.
According to the Journal, two people, the other WSSU student that Smith allegedly held at gunpoint and another man who attended the party with Austin and Smith, have identified Austin as the shooter to police.
In May of last year, Dixon filed a wrongful-death lawsuit, in the Middle District of North Carolina court, naming Wake Forest, Delta Sigma Theta and Rhino Sports & Entertainment Services LLC, which provided security for the party, as defendants. The lawsuit seeks at least $75,000 in damages.
Last September, the attorney representing the chapter of Delta Sigma Theta, Jeffrey Keister, filed a motion to have the lawsuit dismissed against them, arguing that the sorority did not have duty of care for Baker and had no ability to predict a shooting would occur.
Dixon’s attorney responded in November, saying that the sorority was responsible for determining the amount of security needed and who was allowed to attend.
Her attorney, Jonathan Fazzola, also said that the sorority should have been aware of past incidents at the Barn. The lawsuit cites an external audit of Wake Forest police from 2014, which came after complaints that they were racist in their handling of parties hosted by minority students; the resulting report from this audit recommended the university increase security at large events. The lawsuit alleges that the university ignored these signs and still allowed students to be in charge of event management.
Attorneys for the university filed a motion to dismiss in early July, which was denied by U.S. District Judge Catherine C. Eagles in September. The university has since denied the allegations.
According to the Journal, attorneys for Dixon and the sorority have until Feb. 28 to file a joint stipulation of dismissal. No trial date has been set.