The three teenagers accused of the random drive-by shooting murder of Australian baseballer Chris Lane in Oklahoma were on a ‘‘killing spree’’ after leaving a chilling message on Facebook, US authorities believe.
Danny Ford, the chief of Oklahoma’s Duncan Police Department, said the accused killers - aged 15, 16 and 17 - drove to another house to murder a second unrelated victim just hours after shooting Lane in the back and leaving him to die on the side of a road.
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Australian baseballer killed in Oklahoma
A 22-year-old Australian baseballer was senselessly gunned down in Oklahoma by three teenagers on Friday
‘‘They wanted to be Billy Bob Badasses,’’ Chief Ford said.
‘‘I think they were on a killing spree.
‘‘We would have had more bodies that night if we didn’t get them.’’
On one of the alleged killer’s Facebook pages investigators said they found the message: ‘‘Bang. Two drops in two hours’’.
Lane’s murder has shocked the residents of Duncan, a quiet city of 25,000 people in southern Oklahoma, and his team-mates at East Central University (ECU), where Lane, 22, won a scholarship to be the team’s catcher.
The town has had only one other murder in the past five years.
Chief Ford said Lane, who grew up in Melbourne north’s Oak Park, was murdered on Friday afternoon when he left the Duncan home of his girlfriend, Sarah Harper, and went for a jog along Country Club Road, an upper-class area.
He was in the wrong place at the wrong time.
The three boys, in a black car, randomly spotted Lane, police allege.
‘‘They followed him,’’ Chief Ford said. ‘‘They came up from behind, shot him in the back with a small calibre hand gun and sped off.’’
I think they were on a killing spree. We would have had more bodies that night if we didn’t get them.
Witnesses saw Lane stumble across the road and then get down on his knees before struggling to a drainage area on the side of the road.
A woman who came from a nearby house tried CPR while another woman who was in a car stopped and called 911.
Despite paramedics and police being at the scene within minutes and transporting Lane to a nearby hospital, he was pronounced dead about an hour later.
Chief Ford said the only information investigators had at the scene was the killers were in a black car that had a white sticker on the front left hand side of the driver’s windscreen.
Their big break came about four hours later when a concerned parent called police with the message: ‘‘Several juveniles are coming over to kill their son’’.
Police scrambled to the address and found a black car with a white sticker containing the three teenagers in an adjacent church car park.
‘‘Luckily we had officers there really quick,’’ Detective John Byers said.
The boys were arrested, with one allegedly confessing they murdered Lane.
‘‘Two of them did not want to talk,’’ Chief Ford said.
‘‘One of them gave the information they did do the shooting.’’
A search of the car found a shotgun, but the handgun was yet to be found, Chief Ford said.
However, ammunition for the handgun was found hidden in a fuse box under the bonnet of the car and Chief Ford said surveillance footage showed, minutes after Lane was shot, the boys hiding a weapon in the air box breather in the car’s engine.
In between the shooting of Lane and the boys’ arrest one of the boys kept an appointment with juvenile authorities for a previous brush with the law, Chief Ford said.
The boys did not have an apparent link to a gang or drugs, he added.
‘‘I know everybody thinks there has to be a reason, but I’ve been in this business for 30 years and there doesn’t have to be a reason with these kids," the chief said.
‘‘It is a sad, sad thing what happened with that young man.’’
Lane and his girlfriend had only been back in the US for three days after visiting his family in Australia.
The couple had been together for four years. In a Facebook tribute posted just hours after his death, Ms Harper said she had ‘‘amazing memories’’ and cherished a ‘‘last adventure together.’’
‘‘I love you so much babe. From 2009 until forever you will always be mine and in a very special and protected place in my heart," she wrote.
Friends and teammates have begun changing their profile pictures on Facebook to images of Mr Lane.Mr Lane had been a generous and friend and ‘‘brother’’ to his teammates in Oklahoma, one friend wrote.
‘‘I don’t think any of us know how or what we are supposed to feel right now about one of our best men Christopher Lane but I do know that we were extremely blessed to have him sent across the world and into each of our lives," Marshall Veal wrote.
‘‘He brought a light to each of us and will be greatfly missed.‘‘Laney would have done anything in the world for all ofr us and we would do the same, he was a best friend, teammate, and most of all a Brother.’’
One former Australian teammate wrote of Lane’s talent and friendship: ‘‘You are one of the most genuine blokes I’ve ever had the privilege to got to know.’’
Dr Jeff Williams, athletics director at Lane’s college, said: ''The ECU family is saddened to hear about this tragedy.''
‘‘Our thoughts and prayers go out to the Lane family and friends. We will do everything possible to support his family and teammates during this sad time.’’Lane’s body is expected to be flown back to Australia later this week.
Mr Lane's Australian club also paid tribute to him.
''Essendon Baseball Club is deeply saddened by the passing of Christopher Lane,'' the statement said.
''Chris was a truly talented and highly respected young man whose friendship was valued by all who had the good fortune to know him.
''His loss is felt by each and every member of the Essendon family and our thoughts and prayers are with the Lane family during this incredibly difficult time.''
Mr Lane served on the school council at St Bernard’s College in Essendon North, graduating in 2008. School principal Tony Paatsch said a steady stream of calls and emails were coming through from former students and staff upset at Mr Lane’s death.
‘‘Some of the things that they say: ‘One of the friendliest and loved boys of ‘08’,’’ Mr Paatsch said. Old boys who knew him are preparing to raise funds to assist the family with the repatriation of Mr Lane’s body back to Australia, Mr Paatsch said.
Baseball Victoria tweeted: ''Very sad news regarding Essendon Baseball Club player Chris Lane who tragically lost his life''.
AAP and Deborah Gough