June 6, 2015
The death of 19-year-old Blinn College student Lacie LaRose at a graduation party last month was the result of an argument that began over a game of beer pong, a witness told The Eagle.
The two-bedroom home in the 900 block of San Benito Drive now sits unoccupied. The backyard where LaRose was shot, along with two others who received minor injuries, shows no signs of a party, let alone that a young woman was gunned down there. The residential neighborhood less than a mile from A&M Consolidated High School was quiet Tuesday afternoon, the one-month anniversary of the shooting that police said remains under investigation.
On the night of the shooting, there were between 100 and 120 people at the graduation party where a pay-per-view boxing match drew a crowd that included neighbor Ronald Wayne McNeil, 39.
Landon Duke, the 23-year-old guest of honor at the May 2 party, said McNeil lived across the street and came to the party with two friends. Duke, who was celebrating his pending graduation from Texas A&M on May 17, had never met or interacted with McNeil, a convicted felon.
Earlier that day, Duke and the party’s host had gone door-to-door telling neighbors about the party and asking them to contact either of them before calling police to file a noise complaint. Duke said he and his friend never invited anyone to the party, which is why he thought it was odd to see McNeil and his friends at the party.
“It was a little strange that they were at the party but they were really nice, at first, congratulating me on graduating,” Duke said.
During the televised boxing match, Duke said McNeil started to get verbally upset about the partygoers not cheering for Floyd Mayweather. Duke described it as a small disturbance that wasn’t a big deal.
Police were called to the house for a noise complaint at some point after midnight, according to a police report.
By 1 a.m. Sunday, the party died down to about 20 or 30 people, witnesses said. McNeil and his friends were hanging around, playing beer pong in the garage with some of the college-aged guests.
One of McNeil’s friends got into an argument with one of Duke’s friends over the rules for beer pong, Duke said. The verbal exchange became more heated and McNeil and his friends were asked to leave, according to Duke, who said he had stood up to join his friends in escorting the men out.
Duke said he threw a punch that knocked one of McNeil’s friends on the ground; the man got up and left with his friends. Duke said some other people threw punches in the altercation, but that the fight was over pretty quickly. Duke did not name who the other people in the argument were.
Accounts from the police report and Duke vary as to what was said as McNeil and his friends backed down the driveway.
Investigators wrote in court documents that McNeil told authorities some of the other people at the party were yelling racial slurs and beating up his friend. Duke said he heard McNell yell that he was going to get his gun, but didn’t recall anyone yelling racial slurs. McNeil and his friends are black; Duke and most of his friends at the party are white.
“We’re a bunch of college kids. We didn’t think anything was really going to happen. Just to be safe, we closed the garage door anyway,” Duke said in a recent phone interview.