Maplewood shooting: HS student shot dead near soccer field where he excelled


Moussa Fofana fell in love with football in college, honing his skills around the clock, his mother said. The pandemic may have turned her life upside down in other ways in the last year of school, her third in high school, but she couldn’t tone down her passion for gambling.

“He took virtual lessons all morning, then played football every two hours,” said his mother, Hawa Fofana. “I don’t think a day has gone by without him playing.”

He was out on Sunday evening when a friend called to tell Ms Fofana that her son had been shot. She cut the call and tried Moussa’s phone using FaceTime. A policeman answered. Moussa, 18, had died.

“It was like they were putting cold water all over my body,” she said. “I was shocked.”

The crime scene was added to the shock: near the New Jersey soccer field where Moussa stood out as the top scorer in his high school team’s final season.

Moussa was one of two students at Columbia High School in Maplewood to be hit by gunfire near the Underhill sports complex on Sunday night, officials said. The second student, also male, suffered an injury that was not considered life threatening, officials said.

Moussa was a staple of the complex, which is several blocks from the high school. Authorities said the death was treated as homicide and no arrests had been made.

Governor Philip D. Murphy, speaking at a regular daily news briefing Monday, called the murder “another case of gun violence among us.” Maplewood, a suburban town of about 24,000 residents, is located just outside of Newark and about 20 miles west of Times Square.

On Monday afternoon, yellow police tape lined the fences surrounding the complex, and six bouquets of flowers and a soccer ball left behind by mourners lay outside a locked gate. With the lights from a police vehicle flashing around them, investigators worked to piece together what had happened the night before, and local residents expressed shock that a fatal shooting took place in what ‘they said to be a generally quiet area.

Layla Michaelson, a neighbor and high school student from Columbia, said in an interview that she first met Moussa when she was in sixth grade and his family moved in opposite him and his family two years ago. years.

Ms Michaelson, 18, said she often watched Moussa play football on the streets or in his backyard. She said she saw him earlier on Sunday and learned of his death online later. She looked stunned that someone was killing him.

“He’s always been so nice,” she said. “He never gave anyone a problem.”

Ms Fofana, who runs a fashion and styling business in Maplewood, said she immigrated from Liberia to the United States at the end of 2002. Moussa was born in New York and then lived in New Jersey for several years.

She said she sent him to live with his grandmother in Monrovia, the capital of Liberia, when he was 5 years old and returned to that country six years later. She was on her way to Pennsylvania on Monday night to see Moussa’s father and had not told her 5-year-old son Muhammad about Moussa’s death, she said. The brothers, she said, were very close.

Robertson Onyiuke, a family friend, said Moussa was both “still a child” and “the man of the house”.

“We’re all still in shock,” Mr. Onyiuke said, adding, “I loved this boy like a son.”

Police officers found Moussa with a gunshot wound shortly before 10 p.m. Sunday near the sports complex after responding to reports of gunfire in the area, according to a statement from Maplewood Police Chief Jimmy DeVaul and Theodore N. Stephens II, Acting County of Essex. prosecutor. Moussa was pronounced dead about half an hour later, they said.

Dr Ronald G. Taylor, principal of South Orange-Maplewood Schools, said in a letter to parents and staff that the shooting was an “unthinkable calamity.”

Suzanne Fein, who was one of the teachers at Moussa Middle School, described him on local news site The Village Green as “a student who never did without a thank you and a kind smile, grateful to all who are engaged with him “.

Homicides are rare in Maplewood. The most recent was in January, when a 70-year-old woman was found beaten to death on the balcony of her apartment. Her son was then charged with the murder.

In 2019, the owner of a popular New York City comedy club and a nanny who looked after his two children were killed at his Maplewood home. The nanny’s boyfriend has been indicted in the murders.

Susan C. Beachy contributed to the research.