Suspect in former Michigan State star Adreian Payne's death pleads not guilty

Matt Charboneau
The Detroit News

The man accused of killing former Michigan State basketball star Adreian Payne in Florida on Monday told police he felt threatened by the 7-foot Payne and that he was “justified” in shooting the former NBA player.

According to an affidavit filed by the Orange County Sheriff’s Office, 29-year-old Lawrence Dority said he was “intimidated” by Payne’s size and believed Payne had a weapon as they spoke near a car outside of a residence in Orlando. That’s when Dority said he went inside the home, retrieved a gun, and shot Payne one time.

Adreian Payne, center, was shot early Monday morning in Florida while trying to diffuse a disagreement.

Based on the investigation, the affidavit states Dority committed premeditated murder, and that probable cause exists to charge Dority with first-degree murder with a firearm.

Dority waived a formal pretrial arraignment Tuesday and entered a plea of not guilty. 

Payne, 31, was pronounced dead at 2:23 a.m. at a nearby hospital. The affidavit confirmed he was not armed and no weapons were found in his car.

According to the affidavit, Payne and his girlfriend had arrived at the residence to aid Dority’s girlfriend, Tatiana Mesa, who is friends with Payne’s girlfriend. The couple had a history of arguing often and Payne and his girlfriend believed they were coming to attempt to diffuse a disagreement.

That’s when Dority first encountered Payne in a car outside the residence, leading to the altercation that ended with a single gunshot.

Payne, a native of Dayton, Ohio, played at Michigan State from 2010-14. He saw his role grow each season he was with the Spartans, culminating in his senior year, when he was named All-Big Ten, averaging 16.4 points and 7.3 rebounds a game while helping the Spartans reach the Elite Eight before falling to Connecticut.

After being selected by the Atlanta Hawks in the first round of the 2014 NBA Draft, Payne played parts of four seasons in the NBA with Atlanta, Minnesota and Orlando, while also playing in the G League. In 2018, Payne began playing overseas and spent the 2021-22 season with Juventus Utena of the Lithuanian Basketball League. He averaged 8.6 points, 4.6 rebounds and 1.1 steals per game.

“I’m in shock at the tragic news of Adreian Payne’s death,” Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said in a statement. “Our prayers are with his family, teammates and loved ones.

On Monday night, former teammate Draymond Green announced he and his wife, Hazel, will donate $100,000 to a fund honoring Payne.

“My emotions are all over the place,” Green said after Golden State’s win over Memphis. “I call on my Spartan family, Coach Izzo, Magic (Johnson), Jaren Jackson, Miles Bridges, all of my Spartan family, let's do something in honor of Adreian. Whether that's naming something on the campus after him, if that is some scholarships for some kids to play, whatever that is, I call on my Spartan family to ban together and do something in Adreian's name."

Twitter: @mattcharboneau