The 23-year-old man killed in a shooting early Saturday near the Washington State University campus in Pullman was a South King County community activist who dreamed of running for public office, according to his friends and relatives.
Liban Barre was one of two victims of Saturday morning’s shooting. The other, Brandon Gray, a 22-year-old wide receiver for the Cougars, was taken by air ambulance to a Spokane hospital with life-threatening injuries.
WSU athletic director Pat Chun said Gray was in serious but stable condition Saturday afternoon.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with Brandon and his family and friends,” Chun said in a statement. “As this remains an open police investigation, we are not able to comment further at this time.”
The Pullman Police Department said officers were called around 12:30 a.m. for a report of a loud party with possibly 200 people in attendance. As police officers approached the party, they heard several gunshots and found Barre and Gray with gunshot wounds nearby. The officers attempted lifesaving measures on both men.
The Police Department said a 23-year-old Pullman man was arrested several hours later on suspicion of assault in connection with the shooting. The investigation is still continuing.
“We believe that there’s a connection with these individuals,” said Jake Opgenorth, acting chief commander of the Pullman Police Department.
Barre, who grew up in Renton and Kent, was deeply involved in his Somali American community in South King County, said Barre’s cousin, Yasir Rashid.
Rashid, 28, said he last saw his cousin three weeks ago in White Center, where Barre was helping people fill out applications for rental assistance.
Barre also held ambitions of running for public office, according to his cousin Mohamed Abdi, 24. The two became close friends through an East African after-school program as teenagers and made videos about growing up Somali American in South King County.
“He was an absolute dreamer,” said Abdi, who is currently running for a seat on the Tukwila City Council. “He had so many career options, goals.”
Abdi said Barre was driven to support his family and shed light on the Somali, Black and Muslim experience. He had recently moved to Pullman with plans to register for classes at WSU, his cousin said. The Spokesman-Review reported Barre was not currently a student.
“He loved trying to make an impact on this world,” Abdi said. “And doing that, he was going to make an impact on his community.”
Hours before WSU’s 24-13 loss Saturday to Utah in Salt Lake City, Cougar players learned their teammate, Gray, had been wounded.
After the game, coach Nick Rolovich told reporters Gray was in “stable condition” after being critically injured as the result of a gunshot wound.
“I know the Pullman community is hurting from the incident last night. One of our teammates was involved in that, Brandon Gray, and our thoughts and prayers are with him,” Rolovich said. “I have so much respect for this team … for them to go out and play as hard as they did with the news they got this morning about their teammate, I think is a tribute to their character. All we can do right now is pray and pray for his family.”
Players Abe Lucas and Ron Stone Jr. said they were praying for and thinking about their teammate.
“When you see something in the news like that, you never expect it to be someone you know,” Stone said. “It’s shocking and it’s humbling to know that not every day is guaranteed.”
It was not immediately known why Gray didn’t travel to Salt Lake City with the Cougars.
The Associated Press and Theo Lawson of The Spokesman-Review contributed to this report.