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Valley City State football player charged with murder; a former teammate was once shot in head

by Mike McFeely

Cedric Chappell Jr. had an excellent high school football career at Minneapolis Washburn and was selected to play in the 2011 Minnesota High School Football All-Star Game at TCF Bank Field. He parlayed that success into a college football career at North Dakota State School of Science and Valley City (N.D.) State.

But Chappell's youth was marked by tragedy involving gun-play, according to an online article written in 2011.

 Cedric Chappell during his playing days at N.D. Science
A former football teammate of Chappell's, another former Washburn standout named Montrell Wade, was accidentally shot in the head in February 2010 when someone was playing with a gun in a south Minneapolis home. Wade recovered and, according to the article, is attending college in Minnesota. Chappell dedicated his appearance in the all-star game to Wade. 

"I had a very close friend, Montrell Wade, and I am wearing his number today. That is why I played so hard this whole season," Chappell said. "I play hard every season, but I really dedicated the season to him. I think that is one of my highlights, playing for somebody who loves football the way I do." 

The highlights have likely stopped for Chappell. He was arrested on the Valley City State campus this week and charged with murder and attempted murder in connection with a shooting outside a Minneapolis bar over the weekend. According to news reports in the Twin Cities, 22-year-old Willie James Smith III of St. Paul died of a gunshot wound to the chest suffered early Saturday morning. 

The shooting occurred near 21st Avenue and East Franklin Avenue in Minneapolis.

Police say a fight broke out near that intersection about two hours before closing time. The crowd was broken up, but police say some of the participants returned to the scene with guns. 

Smith was pronounced dead at the scene and another person was taken to Hennepin County Medical Center with non-life-threatening injuries.

UPDATE: According to reporting by the Star Tribune newspaper of Minneapolis:

According to the criminal complaint:
Chappell approached Smith outside the Blue Nile at 2027 E. Franklin Avenue about 2:10 a.m. and shot Smith once in the chest. Chappell then shot another man who was running away, wounding him in the leg.
Police say the violence began with fighting inside the Blue Nile that spilled into the parking lot. That’s where the two groups began shooting at each other, leaving bullet holes in nearby vehicles. 

Minneapolis police asked for help from Valley City police in arresting Chappell. He was taken into custody on-campus Monday without incident.

Valley City State's football team had a bye last Saturday.

"Cedric has been suspended from VCSU," Valley City State football coach Dennis McCulloch said via e-mail.

The Star Tribune quoted VCSU athletic director Jack Denholm: "This was a total shock to us."

 Cedric Chappell was also a standout basketball player at Minneapolis Washburn (photo credit: Marshall Independent)

Chappell, a receiver, was having a nice season for the Vikings. He had 12 catches for 232 yards and 5 touchdowns. His best game came Sept. 21 against Trinity Bible College when he had 5 catches for 105 yards and a TD.

Chappell started his college career at North Dakota State College of Science in Wahpeton. He played two seasons there.

He was also a good basketball player in high school. Chappell averaged about 13 points a game his senior year at Washburn, leading the Millers to a 21-6 record.

Valley City State is the second smaller campus in North Dakota to see its football players get in trouble with the law this season. Minot State's Jesse Ili was initially charged with attempted murder after knocking one police officer unconscious and leaving another with minor injuries during an incident in August. The charge was later reduced to felony assault. 

(Mike McFeely is a talk-show host on KFGO-AM in Fargo, N.D. He can be reached at mike.mcfeely@mwcradio.com. Follow him on Twitter @MikeMcFeelyKFGO.)