Trojans attend service for teammate in Louisiana

May 21, 2006

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) -- As his family laid Ryan Francis to rest, a man accused in the shooting death of the USC basketball player says police have arrested the wrong person, his defense attorney said.

DeAnthony Ford, 19, is being held without bond in the May 13 shooting of Francis, who was a USC point guard. The shooting occurred at an intersection about 3 a.m.

Ford's attorney, Dele Adebamiji, said Friday that he talked to his client and that Ford claimed his innocence.

'He said they got the wrong guy and he's ready to prove they got the wrong guy,' Adebamiji said. 'He said he wasn't at the scene at all when all of this happened.'

In an affidavit, police contend that two of the three people riding in the car with Francis viewed a police lineup and identified Ford as the man who fired the fatal shots.

Francis was riding in the back seat of the car when he was shot multiple times.

Police said Ford was driving an SUV and pulled in front of the car carrying Francis after recognizing the car's driver as someone he had been involved in a dispute with earlier that night.

Adebamiji said he had questions about the identifications since he would expect people to be ducking behind car seats or the dashboard in an attempt to shield themselves from the bullets.

He also said one of the people inside the car did not identify Ford as the gunman.

According to the police affidavit, police stopped Ford's vehicle after getting a description of it and found a large-caliber weapon inside.

Francis' mother, Paulette Francis, spent Saturday burying her son, with USC coach Tim Floyd and the entire Trojans team on hand for the funeral.

Francis said earlier in the week that she knew her only child was destined for greatness and hoped his life would inspire others.

'He was tickled pink about going to USC, especially with Tim (Floyd) coming on. He was thrilled and ready to go,' Paulette Francis said.

'Immediately you knew he had a respect for people,' Floyd said. 'Everything was 'yes sir, no sir', which you don't get anymore.'

USC received permission from the NCAA to pay for the funeral and the travel expenses of Trojans players who attended the service.

Francis said she hopes her son's life, however brief, might serve as an example to the community.

'They have good kids here, smart kids here, and he wanted them to know that if he did it, so can they,' she said.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Ryan Francis Memorial Fund, care of Dan Piershale, Regions Bank, 7265 Florida Blvd., Baton Rouge, LA, 70806. For wiring purposes, the account number is 4302618346 and the routing number is 065403626.

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