POWDER SPRINGS, Ga. — A high school football star who had been signed to play at Vanderbilt University was shot to death Thursday by his mother’s ex-boyfriend, police said.
Officers heard gunshots as they arrived at the home where Rajaan Bennett, 18, lived with his mother, Powder Springs Lt. Matt Boyd said. Inside they found Bennett, a running back at McEachern High School, dead of a gunshot wound.
Boyd said Clifton Steger, 39, of Milledgeville shot Bennett and then killed himself. Bennett’s uncle, Taiwan Hunter, 32, was wounded and underwent surgery. He was in critical condition Thursday afternoon.
It was not clear what prompted the shooting.
“Rajaan was an extraordinary young man and an ideal fit for Vanderbilt University,” Vanderbilt football coach Bobby Johnson said in a statement. “Initially, our thoughts and prayers are with his mother Narjaketha and family members. I know he meant so much to them.”
Bennett, a native of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., rushed for 1,857 yards and 28 touchdowns last season for McEachern. He also earned three letters in track.
McEachern school officials held a news conference Thursday.
“We have a population of 2,200 kids, and when you’re Rajaan Bennett, you touch the lives of all 2,200,” principal Regina Montgomery said.
She said counselors will be at the school to help students grieve, but, “We don’t know what we’re going to do tomorrow; we’re just trying to get through today together.”
McEachern football coach Kyle Hockman called Bennett, listed by Vanderbilt as 5-foot-11, 210 pounds, “one of the best ever.”