Emotional reactions to the tragic death of sophomore Jessica Moore continued throughout the early evening hours of Saturday prior to the University’s scheduled prayer service.
Interim University President Dr. Gabriel Esteban fought back tears in releasing a statement to the media in front of the Ring Building around 6:30 p.m.
“I ask that all grieving at Seton Hall to come to the vigil tonight,” Esteban said. “I’m still trying to process this myself.”
Esteban also spoke about his connection to this tragedy outside his role as interim president.
“As a parent, my first instinct was to go home and hold my child,” Esteban said, referring to his daughter who attends the University.
Dr. Laura Wankel, Vice President of Student Affairs, offered additional remarks. The Setonian last spoke with Wankel prior to the announcement of Moore’s death.
“This situation leaves us incoherent with horror,” Wankel said. “We will continue to provide support to the students…my top concern is the well being of our students.”
Moore, an honor student, was shot at an incident early on Saturday morning at a house party in East Orange. The 19-year-old was one of many at a party – reportedly featuring members of Phi Beta Sigma.
Junior Derel Stroud, an At-Large Senator with the Student Government Association and eyewitness to the incident, e-mailed The Setonian just hours after the shooting allegedly occurred. He was reached just prior to Esteban’s press conference.
“I had dropped off two girls at the party, but there were too many people and they couldn’t get in,” Stroud said. “So, I went back around the corner to pick them up. I saw the suspect walk out of the house, up to his friend, and said ‘give me the banger.'”
Stroud said he immediately called 911 and flagged down an East Orange police officer nearby making a traffic stop.
“I had my van from work…I squeezed as many students as I could – 14, 15 – into the van and drove back to campus.”
Stroud said he knew Moore and described her as “always smiling, always nice.”
“She was from Tennessee but living with her mother in Virginia… everyone called her ‘Tennessee,'” Stroud said. “I was at the hospital all night with her.”
Though Stroud wasn’t allowed in the room with Moore, he stayed at University Hospital in Newark until around 8:30 a.m., he said. Stroud also expressed strong feelings about the University’s response during the first hours of Moore’s hospitalization.
“One of the (women’s) basketball players was injured (at the shooting), and coaches, trainers, and players came to see her,” Stroud said, unable to confirm which player it was. “But I was very dissatisfied that not one administrator was visiting the other two girls (right after the incident). It sends a sign that they don’t care.”
Stroud added that he spoke to University officials this morning and was glad that Esteban had since gone to the hospital to visit Moore.
He also identified a second victim – Nakeisha Vanterpool, a sophomore. She, according to Stroud, is still at the hospital.
The unidentified women’s basketball player – the third Seton Hall victim – was released, as reported earlier.
Right before departing for the 9 p.m. prayer service on campus, Esteban offered one last emotional remark.
“We (the Seton Hall community) have to be together,” Esteban said. “She was one of us – she was a Setonian.”
Brian Wisowaty can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.