After two days of anguish, the family of Olympic boxer Rhoshii Wells received a welcome phone call from authorities.
The suspect in the 31-year-old’s slaying had been arrested.
"We jumped around here like it was Christmas morning," Wells’ father, Frederick, said Thursday from his home in North Las Vegas. "You want to see that person eye to eye."
Arizona troopers pulled Roger Randolph over on U.S. Highway 93 about 15 miles north of Kingman, Ariz., late Wednesday and arrested the 26-year-old on a fugitive warrant in connection with Monday’s deadly shooting.
During an interview at the Mohave County jail, Randolph claimed Thursday that he shot Wells in self-defense after the bronze medalist boxer punched him in the eye and robbed him of $100. Randolph said that after the alleged robbery, he drove to the Fremont Street Experience "to go have fun and take it off my mind."
Randolph later returned to the apartment complex at 531 N. Nellis Blvd., near Bonanza Road, pulled a rifle from his vehicle and fired three rounds, cocking the weapon while walking toward Wells, according to a Las Vegas police report. Wells was struck once in the hip.
A witness told Las Vegas police that Wells and Randolph were arguing over comments regarding a woman, according to the arrest report. The report did not elaborate on that argument, but it noted that Randolph told Wells: "I’ll show you (expletive), I’ll come back and bury you!"
Seven minutes later, the suspect returned in a vehicle and began firing at Wells, the witness told police.
Randolph disputed portions of that account and said Wells had a reputation for being violent.
"It wasn’t over no damned woman," he said.
"I figure it was self-defense because he took my money and punched me," Randolph said. "He was a boxer."
Randolph said he could not recall how much time elapsed between the first altercation with Wells and the shooting, but he said Wells approached him, threatening to kill him.
"I put the gun on him. I told him ‘Are you for real,’ " Randolph said in the jail interview.
"I fired like three times, three times, three times. He got hit the third time."
Randolph’s description of Wells’ demeanor is in stark contrast to that given by his friends and family, who said he was a mild-mannered father of five battling to reignite his boxing career.
Frederick Wells said his son was training hard for a comeback. Rhoshii Wells’ last professional fight was in 2005, and he referred to himself as "the forgotten Olympian," his father said.
Terrance Cauthen, who represented the United States alongside Wells in the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, agreed with Wells’ father.
"He had a great record and was a great fighter," Cauthen, also a bronze medalist, said from his New Jersey home. "He was going to come back and do what he needed to do."
Fellow fighters said that even when Wells’ career began to fade, his professional record was 18-2 with 10 knockouts, he remained supportive of his Olympic teammates. Cauthen said he last spoke with Wells in July before one of his own fights.
"He (Wells) said, ‘You are going to box and mess up this guy,’ " Cauthen said. "He called it, because I boxed and messed up that guy."
Wells’ death has devastated his tight-knit, religious family.
"There is no appetite, and I like to eat," Wells’ mother, Linda, said from her North Las Vegas home. "There’s no sleep, and I’m usually in bed by 10 p.m."
As she spoke, Wells’ 4-year-old son, Prince, who was with him during the shooting, raced around the living room. The boy’s mother, Shamecca Flores, said that after the gunfire, Prince ran to Wells’ girlfriend’s apartment and screamed that his father had been shot. Prince ran back to his dad and sprawled out on top of him.
"He was trying to wake him up," she said, adding that Prince and his father loved playing video games together.
Flores hasn’t summoned up the courage to tell the couple’s 9-year-old daughter, Imani, who is visiting New York, that her father is dead.
"I still can’t believe it," the 28-year-old said of her ex-husband, her voice breaking through tears. "I don’t know how I’m going to break it to her."
Frederick Wells said the last time he saw his son was Sunday afternoon when Rhoshii Wells visited his parents’ home and discussed how he could escape the dangerous neighborhood where he lived.
"He said, ‘Daddy, I need to get away from this environment,’ " said Frederick Wells, who was working to rent his son a casita across the street. "It was too late. The next day, he was gone."
The family reminisced about how their son fell in love with boxing after watching "Rocky" when he was 5 years old. His mother encouraged him to take up other sports, like baseball or basketball. But in his first boxing competition as an amateur, at age 11, he beat the defending champion.
Next was the Junior Olympics, the Nationals and finally the Olympics.
"There are no words for that incredible experience," Frederick Wells said, shaking his head and fading off as though the memory brought him back to the exact moment his son fought for a medal.
In the late 1990s, the family moved to Las Vegas, "the boxing capital of the world," Frederick Wells said. Boxing champ Evander Holyfield, who helped fund Rhoshii Wells’ training and traveling expenses leading up the Olympics, gave the family $10,000 to help them move.
Because of recent financial troubles, Wells moved in with his girlfriend and her mother in an apartment on Nellis, near the slaying location. The move put him in the same neighborhood as Randolph, who lived on Sherill Avenue several blocks away.
Detectives searched the house on Sherill and the area around the house and found a semi-automatic rifle loaded with the same type of ammunition as that found at the crime scene.
Randolph is to appear at an extradition hearing this morning in Kingman.
Review-Journal writer Lawrence Mower contributed to this report. Contact reporter Adrienne Packer at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-384-8710.ON THE WEB View a slide show