Family of killed Northwestern State player files lawsuit against university, coach and apartment complex

The parents of former Northwestern State football player Ronald Caldwell Jr. filed a civil lawsuit Friday on behalf of their son, who was shot and killed near campus last month, according to a spokesperson for the family and court records.

The suit, a copy of which was obtained by The Athletic, lists Northwestern State University, former head football coach Brad Laird and the apartment complex where Caldwell Jr. lived and was killed as defendants. It alleges “survival and wrongful death negligence” against each defendant, among other counts. The suit was filed in U.S. District Court, Western District of Louisiana, Alexandria Division.

The suit argues that “Defendants are liable for exemplary/punitive damages” of an unspecified monetary amount and requests a trial by jury.

Caldwell Jr., a 21-year-old junior safety for Northwestern State from Cedar Park, Texas, was shot and killed in the early morning hours of Oct. 12 at The Quad Apartment Complex, off-campus housing where he lived with a 27-year-old non-student named John McIntosh. Two weeks later, on Oct. 26, the university announced that it was canceling the remainder of its football season and that Laird was resigning immediately. Northwestern State president Marcus Jones said in an accompanying statement it was “in the best interest of our players, coaches, and staff to pause and to take this time to mourn, to heal, and to support Ronnie’s family.”

In a statement provided to The Athletic on Saturday morning, the university said: “We are aware of the lawsuit filed by the family of Ronnie Caldwell. While we cannot comment on the lawsuit at this time, our thoughts and prayers continue to be with Ronnie’s family following this terrible tragedy.”

Northwestern State, located in Natchitoches, La., is an FCS football program and member of the Southland Conference. The team was 0-6 in 2023, and Laird was in his sixth season as head coach. Two days after Caldwell Jr.’s death, the Demons canceled their road game at Nicholls, but returned the following week to play Southeastern Louisiana at home on Thursday, Oct. 19.

On Oct. 27, the day after the season was officially canceled, Caldwell Jr.’s parents, Ronald Caldwell Sr. and Blanche Bradley, held a news conference with family representatives announcing potential litigation for what the family believed was “a number of failures” made by the university, Laird and The Quad that led to Caldwell Jr.’s death.

The lawsuit echoes much of the information presented in the news conference, including stating there was an incident on Oct. 9, three days prior to the shooting, when Caldwell Jr.’s roommate, McIntosh — who is not identified by name in the suit — allegedly “pulled a gun” on Caldwell Jr. “during an altercation.”

The suit further alleges that Caldwell Jr. immediately called his father to inform him of the incident, that Caldwell Sr. sent a same-day text to Laird asking for help, and that Laird “replied with a phone call assuring Ronald that he would take expedient action and move Ronnie to a safe location immediately.”

The next call Caldwell Sr. received from Laird was at 2:07 a.m. on Oct. 12 “informing him that Ronnie had been murdered,” according to the suit.

The suit also alleges that Caldwell Jr. had previously moved out of a unit in The Quad after mold was discovered and was placed in a new unit in the same complex with a “non-university non-college student” with whom Caldwell Jr. “had a series of verbal altercations” during their short time living together.

On Oct. 12, the day of the shooting, Natchitoches police arrested McIntosh, identified as Caldwell Jr.’s roommate, for possession of a firearm in the presence of a controlled substance. Eight days later, Natchitoches police arrested Caldwell Jr.’s former Northwestern State teammate, 22-year-old Maurice Campbell II, for obstruction of justice, possession of marijuana with intent to distribute and possession of a firearm in the presence of a controlled substance, according to police records.

Caldwell Jr.’s death remains under active investigation by the Natchitoches Police Department and no suspects have been named.

Caldwell Jr. transferred to Northwestern State prior to the 2022 season from Tyler Junior College in Tyler, Texas. He played in 11 games a year ago and finished seventh on the team in total tackles in his first year with the Demons. An injury kept Caldwell Jr. out of the 2023 season but he helped as a voluntary defensive assistant coach.

The lawsuit, represented by Daniel Williams & Associates and the Cox Pradia Law Firm, alleges counts of premises liability against The Quad, survival and wrongful death negligence, and vicarious liability by the university and Laird. It officially cites the State of Louisiana through the board of supervisors of Northwestern State University; Laird, individually, and in his capacity as an employee of Northwestern State University; Campus Advantage, Inc. (which owns and operates The Quad), and its insurance company, XYZ Insurance Company, as defendants.

“Defendants’ conduct … involved an extreme degree of risk, considering the probability and magnitude of harm to others,” the suit states. “Defendants proceeded with a conscious indifference to the rights, safety or welfare of others.”

Attempts by The Athletic to reach management of The Quad were unsuccessful. On Friday, Northwestern State president Dr. Marcus Jones spoke to The Purple Media Network, the official student media news site of the school, and said the decision to cancel the season was in the best interest of the student-athletes.

“I still go back to the fact that the decision that was made was made with the interest of our student-athletes and their health and safety in mind. And had we had any other options we would have taken it, but this was the best decision,” Jones said. “I wish that we were not in this position to have to make the decision, and the only regret is that I wish that they (the football team) had been collectively brought together and talked to.”

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