Although a detective testified Wednesday that slain Mercer University basketball player Jibri Bryan was fatally shot last month during a drug deal, the dead player's father says that doesn't sound like something his son would have been caught up in.
"That wouldn't wash with (Jibri) because he don't do drugs," Tyrone Bryan said, "what I know of him."
In the weeks since the 23-year-old was gunned down Feb. 2 as he sat at the wheel of his Chevrolet Monte Carlo in the parking lot of a downtown Macon gas mart, speculation has swirled about the circumstances surrounding the killing.
Early on, authorities hinted that drugs may have been involved, telling reporters that investigators found a bottled suspicious substance and a wad of about $300 cash lying outside Bryan's car.
Bryan had backed into a parking space at the Flash Foods, which sits at the bustling corner of Forsyth and College streets half a mile from the campus, about 4 o'clock on the afternoon he died.
In a court hearing Wednesday, a Bibb County sheriff's investigator recounted a statement that one of Bryan's alleged killers, 24-year-old Jarvis Miller, made to police.
Miller said his alleged accomplice, Damion Deray Henderson, an ex-con from the south side of Atlanta, tried to sell Bryan fake Xanax. When Bryan realized the drugs weren't genuine, he refused to buy them.
Investigator Shaun Bridger testified that Henderson, 34, responded, saying Bryan would "buy them or else."
Contacted by a Telegraph reporter after the hearing and told of the apparent circumstances of the killing, Bryan's close friend and Mercer teammate Jestin Lewis said, "That's messed up, brah."
Asked if the scenario seemed fitting of the friend he knew, Lewis said, "No."
Bryan's father said his son wouldn't so much as take Aleve or other pain relievers for fear of losing his NCAA eligibility.
He wonders if the motive for his son's death could have been robbery.
Tyrone Bryan, 61, said he always told Jibri that if he ever found himself the victim of a stickup to "give it up. It ain't worth it. I can replace that. I cannot replace you."
The elder Bryan added, "For this criminal just to shoot my son, ... he didn't have to."
LOOSE ENDS REMAIN
For now, a month into the probe, homicide investigators have all but wrapped up their end of case. A few loose ends remain as evidence is still being tested.
But as in most killings -- be they high-profile slayings like Bryan's or murders that attract little interest -- unanswered questions remain.
When asked during Wednesday's hearing by Henderson's lawyer, Franklin J. Hogue, investigator Bridger said there are no eyewitnesses to the killing other than the men charged.
To some extent, Henderson and Miller -- who himself was wounded in the gunfire, shot in the neck -- blame the shooting on one another.
Bridger said Henderson, who was arrested in Decatur days after the killing, told authorities Miller was inside the car with Bryan.
Henderson said he was standing beside the car and that's when he heard gunshots.
Miller claims Henderson shot Bryan and then turned the gun on him, the investigator said.
When asked by the prosecution which man's story matches physical evidence in the case, Bridger replied it was Miller's.
A witness at the store reported seeing Miller running away after the shooting, heading behind the nearby Ronald McDonald House.
Behind a trash bin there, police found a .380-caliber handgun. The gun was jammed and inoperable, Bridger said.
Another gun, a 9mm, was found near a ditched Nissan Sentra that Henderson and Miller rode in to meet Bryan at the gas mart. Shell casings from a 9 mm handgun were found in the gas station parking lot.
Henderson admitted borrowing the car earlier from a Macon woman and then leaving it on Orange Terrace, not far from the apartment where Miller sometimes lived with his mother.
The apartment sits a few blocks from the crime scene, not far from Mount de Sales and the Medical Center, Navicent Health.
While officials have not said how the three men may have known each other or why they came to meet, a friend of Miller's has told The Telegraph that Miller and Bryan had been acquainted for some time.
Miller's mother told the newspaper she doesn't know how her son and Bryan knew each other. She'd only seen Henderson a couple of times.
The day Bryan died, it wasn't long before investigators learned he was a Mercer ballplayer.
Within two hours of the shooting, word made it back to campus as authorities scrambled to get in touch with Bryan's parents in Savannah.
Reached Wednesday, coach Bob Hoffman said Bryan's teammates "continue to fight" while missing "a young man that was dear to all of us."
The Bears face The Citadel Friday night in the opening round of the Southern Conference tournament. A loss could end Mercer's season.
Lewis, Bryan's close friend on the team, and another player were suspended from the squad in the days after the slaying. The school has declined to say why.
Neither player, both members of the team's starting five, has played since Bryan died, a stretch that has seen the Bears lose seven of eight games to close out their regular season.
Before the killing, Mercer's record stood at 17-6 and the team was battling for one of the top spots in their league.
Tyrone Bryan, who has watched parts of some Mercer games since his son's death, plans to watch Friday's game.
Jibri started playing basketball at age 6, and his father has been watching ever since.
Jibri may have used the MBA degree he'd nearly earned to venture into real estate. His relatives own rental properties near the Georgia coast.
"The boy was set for life," the father said. "He was gonna come home and take over the properties."
With his degree, Tyrone Bryan said Jibri could have done even more.
"I'm devastated. ... That was my baby. He didn't have to do anything illegal. I went to the bank every week for my son. Since he came out of the womb, he didn't have to say, 'I want.' All he had to do was say, 'I ...,' and daddy went and got it for him," the elder Bryan said.
"It don't stand to reason for him to be out there trying to hustle or anything like that."
To contact writer Amy Leigh Womack, call 744-4398 or find her on Twitter@joekovacjr.