ADA, Okla. (AP) – Chris Lane traveled from Australia to the United States for the love of the game – and the opportunity to secure a college degree while playing America’s pastime. On the small campus of East Central University in Oklahoma, he made a home for himself in class and on the baseball field.
The 22-year-old Melbourne native, who hoped to work in real estate when he graduated next May, was fatally shot in the back last week while jogging along a tree-lined street near his girlfriend’s home in Duncan. Three boys – ages 15, 16 and 17 – are charged with what prosecutors call a thrill killing, while those who knew Lane in the U.S. and Australia are trying to come to grips with the random attack.
“He achieved a lot for a 22-year-old,” his father, Peter Lane, told The Telegraph in Sydney, Australia. “He gave up a lot to follow his dream.”
A former coach who recruited Lane from Australia remembered him Wednesday as a well-rounded, charismatic guy who knew he wasn’t the best baseball player in the world, but was passionate about the sport, worked hard and used his skills to pursue a college education.
Lane started 14 games at catcher last year, and was entering his senior year. His coach, Dino Rosato, said in a statement that Lane was a joy to coach, and other teammates looked to him for advice and support. He hit .250 for the ECU Tigers last season, a figure that’s OK but not a number that would attract scouts from professional clubs – but that’s not what Lane was about.
“Chris was talented enough to play baseball, but he used that as a pathway to a collegiate education,” Athletic Director Jeff Williams said on a tribute page on the school’s website.
Lane had been playing baseball for the Essendon Baseball Club in Australia when he was recruited to play for Redlands Community College in El Reno in 2009, where he met his girlfriend.
On Tuesday, Chancey Allen Luna, 16, and James Francis Edwards, Jr., 15, of Duncan, were charged with first-degree murder. Under Oklahoma law they will be tried as adults. Michael Dewayne Jones, 17, of Duncan, was charged with using a vehicle in the discharge of a weapon and with accessory to first-degree murder after the fact. He is considered a youthful offender but will be tried in adult court.
Police have said the 17-year-old told authorities the boys were “bored” and decided to kill someone for the “fun of it.”
Autopsy results released Wednesday say Lane died from a “penetrating gunshot wound to the back.”