As Florida International University mourns loss of slain football player, police make arrest

MIAMI — By all accounts, Florida International running back Kendall Berry was not one to look for a fight.

But Thursday night, on FIU's main campus, the Haines City native, 22, had words with former player Quentin Wyche, who had insulted Berry's girlfriend and thrown cookies in her face.

As horrified classmates watched, Wyche stabbed Berry while outside the school's recreation center and left him to die, police and witnesses said. After hiding from authorities for most of Friday, Wyche surrendered to police in Broward County. He was taken to Miami-Dade County and charged with second-degree murder with a deadly weapon.

On the day after the slaying, Berry was remembered as a "tireless worker" and "great person."

"Kendall had an infectious personality," coach Mario Cristobal said. "He was loved and respected by everyone who had the privilege of knowing him. It was truly an honor to have known and coached Kendall. It's a shame to lose such a young life to an act of senseless violence."

The campus opened as usual, but the rec center was closed until noon. The university has more than 39,000 students, mostly commuters.

"The FIU football team and FIU community suffered a tremendous loss," Cristobal said.

Increased security for students and grief assistance were available, and Berry's teammates were meeting with counselors.

Spring football, which was to conclude Wednesday, was postponed indefinitely. A memorial is being planned, and Cristobal said details on that will be released early next week.

Berry appeared in all 12 games as a freshman in 2007, sat out 2008 with a knee injury, then had some breakout moments last season, finishing with seven touchdowns.

Those who knew Berry best said it wasn't like him to be caught in a heated situation.

"(Thursday) night, his grief-stricken mother described Kendall as a negotiator, not a fighter," university president Mark B. Rosenberg said.

While police and school administrators said little, details emerged from witnesses and those familiar with the investigation, the Miami Herald reported.

Many of those in the fitness center, which has glass walls, saw the slaying.

Doryham Almendarez, 19, was on the second floor when he noticed other students gathered at the window. He joined them — and saw Berry lying on the sidewalk. Berry had already been stabbed, Almendarez said, but his suffering didn't end there.

"He was getting kicked," Almendarez said. A woman stood by helplessly as it happened.

"There was a girl, I don't know if it was his girlfriend, but she was … crying and screaming," said Almendarez, who saw a man with dreadlocks run toward the dorms.

Wyche of Fort Lauderdale, who was part of the football team's training camp last summer but was not on its 2009 roster, has long dreadlocks.

As a rec center staff member tried to revive Berry with CPR, a group of about 15 students, many of them Berry's friends, gathered outside, Almendarez said. "They were just stunned."

Wyche has been arrested twice before, both times as a juvenile in Volusia County, state records show. In December 1999, deputies arrested him on a charge of felony battery on a school board employee. In 2000, he was arrested on a misdemeanor charge of "conspiring to disrupt the education process." Because Wyche was a minor at the time, the cases are not public record.

"Everyone is kind of like in shock," student Eric Fleming, 22, said. "People usually feel safe at FIU. It's crazy how people can resort to this type of violence."

As Florida International University mourns loss of slain football player, police make arrest 03/26/10 [Last modified: Saturday, March 27, 2010 1:22am]

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