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Australian's Shooting Death Echoes From Oklahoma To Melbourne

A tribute page to Christopher Lane, an Australian college baseball player who was shot and killed in Oklahoma last week, has drawn thousands of responses on Facebook.
A tribute page to Christopher Lane, an Australian college baseball player who was shot and killed in Oklahoma last week, has drawn thousands of responses on Facebook.

The killing of an Australian man who was in the U.S. on a baseball scholarship has brought grief to his hometown and to the small Oklahoma town where he was shot to death. Three teens have been arrested for the crime; one suspect says they simply had nothing better to do, the police report.

Christopher Lane, 22, was reportedly shot in the back as he jogged down a road in Duncan, Okla., in the middle of the afternoon last Friday. He was a victim of random violence, police say, after three teens — ages 15, 16 and 17 — saw him pass a house they were in. They allegedly got in a car, followed Lane and shot him.

The 17-year-old suspect, who police say confessed to the crime Sunday, said the boys were bored and "they just wanted to see [someone] die, or kill someone," Duncan Police Chief Danny Ford said, according to The Duncan Banner.

Witnesses say that they saw Lane stagger across the road and collapse, before moving to the side of the street.

"One lady began CPR; another lady stopped and called 911," Ford tells Australia's About an hour later, Lane died at a local hospital.

Ford says the 17-year-old admits to driving the car and has identified the 16-year-old as the one who fired the gun, reports Australia's News 9.

The two younger suspects "have suffered tragic lives, their parents said," according to News 9. "The 15-year-old's mother is in jail. The 16-year-old last year dealt with the death of his stepfather and brother."

The suspects are expected to be arraigned and formally charged Tuesday.

Lane played catcher for the baseball team at East Central University in Ada, Okla. Just a week ago, he had returned from a summer trip home to Australia along with his American girlfriend, Sarah Harper; when he was killed, he was visiting her hometown of Duncan.

"He loved his family and friends more than anything in the world," Harper tells the Duncan Banner. "If you could hand pick qualities for a perfect person he would be the final product."

Lane had planned to return to Ada for his senior year this week.

A Duncan resident is organizing a 5K run to honor Lane. Sonya Hill says her son often runs on Country Club Road, where Lane was killed. She tells The Duncan Banner that she believes the Harper family will use the money to start a scholarship in Lane's name.

The paper also reports that people are donating money to help the Harper family travel to Australia for Lane's memorial service.

In Australia, former deputy prime minister Tim Fischer, a noted advocate of gun control, is telling people to stay away from America.

"Tourists thinking of going to the USA should think twice," Fischer said Monday, according to the site. He continued:

"This is the bitter harvest and legacy of the policies of the NRA that even blocked background checks for people buying guns at gunshows.

"People should take this into account before going to the United States.

"I am deeply angry about this because of the callous attitude of the three teenagers [but] it's a sign of the proliferation of guns on the ground in the USA.

"There is a gun for almost every American."

The story has been front-and-center in Australia's media since Friday, with news outlets sending reporters to Oklahoma to cover the case.

Robert Penfold, a correspondent for Channel 9 Australia, tells the Duncan Banner that Lane's death "has been the lead, the main story in Australia even though there is an election going on there at the moment."

"In Australia it's waking up and finding that a nice young man with a lovely American girlfriend is gunned down and his body was found on the side of the street," he said. "In the Bushland that's frightening."

A tribute page to Lane was set up on Facebook this week. It has already drawn the support of more than 30,000 people, and hundreds of comments from people in the United States and Australia.

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Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.
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