Arrest made in FIU player slaying
Kendall Berry was going to be one of the featured running backs in a FIU football scrimmage on Saturday. The 22-year-old was so excited he spent some of his final hours begging people to come to Miami and watch.
There's no scrimmage now.
For Berry, there will never be another.
Leaving a football team in mourning and a university in stunned disbelief, Berry was remembered Friday as a ``tireless worker'' and ``great person,'' one day after he was fatally stabbed in an argument outside the front doors of the school's student recreation center.
A frantic 24-hour search for a suspect ended Friday night, when police said 22-year-old Quentin Rashad Wyche turned himself in. Later, police said Wyche would be charged with second-degree murder and held without bond.
``Kendall had an infectious personality,'' FIU football coach Mario Cristobal said Friday before the arrest was announced. ``He was loved and respected by everyone who had the privilege of knowing him. It was truly an honor to have known and coached Kendall. It's a shame to lose such a young life to an act of senseless violence.''
Wyche was booked into jail at 11:33 p.m. Friday, according to online records. He was in training camp with FIU's football team last summer, though his name does not appear on the team's 2009 roster.
Investigators said Berry and Wyche got into a ``verbal dispute'' and Wyche pulled out an unknown sharp object and stabbed Berry. It was unclear what the dispute was about.
Wyche was in custody Friday night and it was not immediately known if he had an attorney.
Wyche's arrest ended a day where the FIU community was on high alert. Increased security for students and grief assistance were available, and Berry's football teammates were meeting with counselors. Students living in residence halls were advised to keep doors locked, and any person at the university was offered protective escorting if desired.
``Our hearts are heavy,'' a somber FIU president Mark B. Rosenberg said in a video statement Friday morning, adding that the school ``will not rest'' until Berry's attacker was found.
Berry will be remembered in a ``celebration of life'' at FIU's basketball arena on Monday afternoon.
``The FIU football team and FIU community suffered a tremendous loss. ... We will come together and help each other overcome this tragedy,'' Cristobal said.
The campus opened as usual Friday and classes and other events took place as scheduled. The rec center was closed until noon, and reminders of the crime - police tape stuffed into a trash can, an orange ``X'' spray-painted on the ground - were left behind near the front doors.
Spring football, which was to conclude Wednesday, is postponed indefinitely.
Those who knew Berry best said it wasn't like him to be caught in a heated situation.
``Last night, his grief-stricken mother described Kendall as a negotiator, not a fighter,'' Rosenberg said Friday.
Bill Buldini remembered Berry the same way.
Buldini was Berry's high school coach and remained in close contact with him during his college years. Buldini got a call from Berry on Wednesday night, inviting him to come see Saturday's practice at FIU.
``To talk about him as a football player would underscore him,'' Buldini told The Associated Press. ``As great as a player as he was for us, he was a great person. He was a good kid. Never had any problems with Kendall. Never got in any trouble. I used to tell kids, if you were looking for a role model, look at Kendall Berry.''
FIU student Freddy Chica, 23, said he was inside the rec center Thursday night when he noticed a commotion. Shortly afterward, he said he saw Berry drop to the ground in a chaotic scene. Chica said he saw a man check Berry for a pulse and start CPR, then saw another person begin resuscitation attempts. He said he also saw paramedics arrive on the scene.
``When they ripped his shirt off, I noticed that the shirt was full of blood,'' Chica said.
When paramedics put Berry on the stretcher, his hands fell to the side and his head moved sideways, Chica said.
``I can't get that picture out of my head,'' he added.
Berry had 164 all-purpose yards in limited use as a freshman in 2007, appearing in all 12 FIU games that season. He sat out the 2008 season with a knee injury and then had some breakout moments in 2009, rushing for three touchdowns in a span of 13 minutes against Middle Tennessee on Nov. 7 and following that up with two more scores the following week in a win over North Texas.
Berry finished last season with seven touchdowns, six of them rushing.
``Terrible tragedy,'' Buldini said. ``The Kendall Berry I know wouldn't go out and look for any trouble. He was excited. He wanted us to come down and see him play. He had graded out with the best grade of the running backs. He thought he was headed in the right direction.''
Berry had seven brothers and sisters, FIU said.
``In our sorrow, we must come together,'' Rosenberg said in his message to the university community. ``Our campus is safe. Now more than ever, you must tell this story. ... Even while we mourn Kendall and express our sympathy to his family and friends, we must not let this heinous crime overshadow the incredible track record for safety that we have.''