Giants CB testifies at murder suspect's hearing

TOPEKA, Kan. -- New York Giants cornerback Corey Ballentine has testified at a preliminary hearing about a shooting in Kansas that killed his best friend and former Washburn University teammate as they stood outside a party where they were celebrating Ballentine being drafted.

Ballentine's testimony at a preliminary hearing Monday came a day after he made his debut with the Giants, who drafted him in the sixth round on April 27 just hours before the shooting. He was wounded and 23-year-old Dwane Simmons, a defensive back who would have been a senior this year for Washburn, was killed. Three other Washburn players in the group were not injured.

Francisco Alejandro Mendez, 18, is charged in Shawnee County with first-degree murder, four counts of attempted first-degree murder and seven counts of aggravated robbery in the shooting, The Topeka Capital-Journal reported . After the hearing, Mendez was bound over for trial, with an arraignment scheduled Sept. 26.

Ballentine, 23, missed the Giants rookie camp as he recovered from his injuries. He made the team as a cornerback and kick returner and on Sunday, he returned two kickoffs for 46 yards for the Giants in their season opening 35-17 loss to the Dallas Cowboys.

He testified that he and friends spent the day celebrating his draft selection and ended up at an off-campus house party. As the Washburn players were leaving the party they stopped outside to discuss plans for the next day when Ballentine said he noticed a car with no lights turning onto the street.

The car slowed and stopped near the group and someone in the car asked the players their names. When one of the football players said, "Don't worry about all that,'' the car pulled forward about 20 feet and stopped. Then Ballentine heard gunshots, he said.

"Initially, it was slow,'' he said of the gunfire. ``Then it started speeding up after I started running.''

Investigators said about 20 shots were fired at the five football players. Ballentine said he realized as he was running that he was shot but he kept running to a friend's nearby house. He tried to call Simmons `"but he didn't pick up'' and then called another Washburn teammate to get a ride to the hospital. He didn't realize until later that Simmons had been killed, he said.

Ballentine said the bullet that ended up in his buttocks near his pelvic bone is still there.

Alan Martinez, deputy district coroner for Shawnee County, testified that Simmons died from a single gunshot wound to the forehead.

Mendez has been in jail since his arrest May 1 in connection with three robberies allegedly committed a day before the shootings. He is being held on $1 million bond.