A man denied access to a private party at an apartment near Seton Hall University left, returned a few minutes later with a handgun and shot five college students, killing a 19-year-old girl, Essex County Prosecutor Robert Laurino said Saturday.
Jessica Moore, a sophomore honors student at Seton Hall whose mother lives in Virginia, lost her life from injuries sustained in the bizarre attack. Two of the other victims wounded in the gunfire just after midnight attend Seton Hall and two go to another local college, according to a safety alert issued on Seton Hall's website. None of the four surviving victims, all of whom remain hospitalized with non-life threatening injuries, have been identified.
A fellow student of Moore's, Mitye Cok, caller her a "good, good friend" whom he nicknamed his "sister."
He said they were at the house about a mile away from campus, "just a bunch of college kids trying to have a good time partying."
Cok, from The Bronx, described a "party crasher" who came to the door intoxicated, was hustled back outside, and then "the guy came back with a gun, started shooting, and everybody scrambled to get out of there--so packed in a little place.
As many as 50 people were inside.
East Orange police Sgt. Andrew Dilermo confirmed the gunman had been turned away from the party at about 12:15 a.m., came back shortly after with the gun and managed to get inside the front door by just a few steps before opening fire.
Police are still searching for the unidentified shooter and have yet to talk with anyone who knew him. The suspect is described as a black man in his mid 20's about 5'11"-6'2" with a dark complexion, stocky build, low haircut and a scruffy full beard.
A man who said he had stopped by the party told The Star-Ledger of Newark that he was in the kitchen and heard people shouting in the living room when a shot rang out. The man declined to give his full name to the newspaper because he feared for his safety.
More shots were fired as the panicked crowd stampeded toward the back of the house to try to escape, the man said. He told the newspaper he went back into the house as police arrived and saw one of the victims lying on the floor.
The apartment is located less than a mile from the university.
In light of this weekend's tragedy, the university is offering counseling support services to all students and the Department of Public Safety urges students to travel in groups when walking off campus.
Cok, in describing the frined he called "my sister," said "She was one of the first people I met here. We've been cool ever since ... and I told her I love her every day."
The prosecutor's office formed a task force to investigate the crime and the county sheriff's office is offering a $10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the individual or individuals responsible.