Student from Freehold, gunned down at NJIT, ‘will forever live in our souls’
A somber vigil was held on the campus of New Jersey Institute of Technology in Newark Tuesday evening for the 23-year-old mechanical engineering student who was shot and killed at an off-campus TKE fraternity house early Monday morning.
Hundreds of students gathered to remember 23-year-old Joe Micalizzi of Freehold, who died shortly after 5 a.m. Monday at University hospital after reportedly being shot by burglars during a struggle at the Tau Kappa Epsilon house. He was rushed to University Hospital but died shortly after 5 a.m.
Unnamed police sources have been quoted saying he was trying to fight off two intruders when he was killed.
At a vigil organized by the TKE Fraternity, students gathered in a large circle outside the main Campus Center, lit candles, and shared stories about Micalizzi.
“We were here to show support for a fellow student, it was heartbreaking something so terrible could happen here,” said student Shreya Mukherjee. “This was a chance to come together like a big family, so there was a lot of love in the air.”
"This was our way of showing support not just because he was Greek, but because he was an NJIT student, and a young student at that, such a young student taken away from us,” said student Lusaro Arevalo .
"It was important to be here because he was part of the student community. He will forever live in our souls. He was one of us. He was our friend and it could have been any of us," said another student, Fifi Kofiosu.
Student Sterling Clark said Micalizzi "never did anything wrong to anyone, and to hear about this is just so sad, you just have to show your respects.”
"I got to know him and I feel like it was kind of heroic of him, going out like that, protecting his house and protecting his brothers," student Christian Chavez said. "He was not only a role model for his frat brothers, but for everyone on this campus."
Several TKE fraternity brothers spoke during the vigil, describing Micalizzi as a hero, a stand-up guy and true friend — someone who you instantly liked and who did the right thing and helped others.
The fraternity house had reportedly been broken into before, and several personal items had been stolen.
Newark and campus police have announced beefed-up patrols on campus. The Essex County Prosecutor’s Office continues to investigate the killing, but so far no arrests have been made in the case.
Micalizzi, a native of Freehold, had transferred to NJIT to pursue a mechanical engineering degree after two years at Brookdale Community College. During the fall semester last year he had made the dean’s list.
His family has remained silent in the aftermath of the tragedy.
NJIT students were reminded in an email sent out by vigil organizers that “a sudden and tragic loss of this nature can cause significant difficulty and anxiety, but NJIT has many avenues for support and assistance. Many professionals across campus are available to provide counseling, academic support, and general help. Don't hesitate to reach out to the Office of the Dean of Students if you are experiencing any difficulties relayed to this incident.”
Gov. Chris Christie, who was on the NJIT campus earlier in the day to tour a learning facility, called the killing an extraordinary tragedy. He said:
I have a son who is in college right now getting ready to graduate in just a few weeks. It is one of the most optimistic times of life when you’re in a university setting. You’re learning every day, you’re experiencing growing up with your peers and, especially for someone like Joe who is a member of a fraternity, also learning what it’s like to grow up with people that come from all different kinds of backgrounds and experiences, but come here unified by one goal, which is to learn, to improve their lives and to grow up.
We never ever think that the conclusion of this experience will be anything other than a cap and gown, and a diploma, and a job, and a career. For someone coming from Freehold, N.J. with a dad who's working two jobs to help to afford to send him here, for him to have to deal with it and his family to have to deal with it — not just the Micalizzi family but also as the family of NJIT is an awfully, awfully difficult thing.
And so I just want to extend on behalf of the people of the state and on behalf of me and Mary Pat, our condolences to both those families. Joe’s nuclear family and Joe’s university family. Both of them, I suspect, were precious to him, and for those young men and women here who call themselves Joe’s friends, the only way ... in my mind, to show tribute to him and to his life is for you to do those things that he and his family wish he could be doing today. Finish your degree, develop your relationships and move forward in a way that contributes to our society and to your own individual families in a much broader way.
Condolences are not enough. I am a father of four. There could never be enough condolences that could be given to a mother or a father who lose their child. It’s the most unnatural thing that could happen to anyone in the normal arch of life. We expect our children to be there for us when we die, not the other way around. For those of you who know this family personally, I’d urge you not, it’s always an awkward thing, but don’t stay away, move forward, embrace them. And as parents let them know how much you feel their pain. It will help, I guarantee it will help.
Micalizzi's death comes less than a month after a student at neighboring Rutgers-Newark was killed at his off-campus home, sending shockwaves through the Newark college community.