It happened just after 9:30 p.m. at Underhill Field on Garfield Place in Maplewood, and both victims are Columbia High School students.
Moussa Fofana, 18, of Maplewood, was pronounced dead at the scene at 10:24 p.m.
A second male victim was treated at an area hospital for a non-life-threatening gunshot wound.
According to Principal Frank Sanchez, Fofana was an 11th grade student. The second student remains hospitalized.
Fofana was looking forward to his second year as a varsity high school soccer player.
Friends said he was driven to succeed.
"He was one of the hardest working persons I know, I'll wake up in the morning sometimes and I'd have a Snap Chat or video from him and it would be from last night at like 10 p.m. and he'd be at the soccer field in the middle of winter at 10 with just a flashlight on training, it was just his dream to go pro and I feel like he had the talent and the work ethic to do it," friend Joshua Billec said.
Billec said his whole goal was to make the varsity team and when he did, he couldn't get the smile off his face for the rest of the month.
"And then when he scored his first varsity goal, you would not stop hearing about it for the next two months," Billec said.
Friends said Fofana took good care of his mother and his brother and they made him a better young man.
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"As Columbia High School parents and members of our community, Marie and I are absolutely heartbroken," Maplewood Mayor Frank McGehee said. "Our prayers go out to Moussa's family, friends, teammates, classmates, the entire CHS community, our Maplewood-South Orange community and everyone impacted by this senseless and devastating loss due to gun violence. We are also keeping the other student who was injured in our thoughts. While there are still so many unanswered questions, we ask that everyone respect both family's privacy at this very difficult time."
Columbia High School has brought in grief counselors, and Superintendent Dr. Ronald Taylor sent the following letter to families.
Dear South Orange & Maplewood School Community,
It is with a very heavy heart that we confirm there was a shooting last night with multiple victims at Underhill. One person was killed and at least one other was wounded. Tragically, the police have verified that both victims were Columbia High School students.
This inconceivable calamity is undoubtedly a devastating blow to our students, staff and community. I have been in direct contact with Police Chief Duval, Mayor McGehee, Principal Sanchez, Principal Gronau and Principal Connors. We have activated our emergency protocols to provide mental health support for Columbia High School, Maplewood Middle and Clinton Elementary.
We are in close communication with the authorities. The District will provide updated information to staff and the District families as it is received. Until such time as information is received, we are making preparations for addressing the needs of our students, staff and families. I have notified our County Executive Superintendent of Schools and we are activating the County Grief Counseling Services via the Traumatic Loss Coalition, to support our students and staff.
With this devastating news, I have confirmed with our Board of Education that the retiree celebration scheduled for this evening will be canceled and postponed to a later date. Also, all activities at Underhill field are canceled while the investigation proceeds. In addition, due to the proximity of Underhill to Clinton Elementary School and the ongoing police investigation taking place, all outdoor activities at Clinton will be canceled for the day (and/or take place indoors where necessary).
At this time, out of respect for the family and due to the ongoing nature of the police investigation, we are unable to share the names of the affected students. We offer our sincere condolences to the family in their time of need. We will follow up with additional communication as we receive clearance from the local law enforcement and the family.
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No arrests have been made at this time, and the investigation is active and ongoing.
Anyone with information is asked to contact the Essex County Prosecutor's Office Homicide/Major Crimes Task Force at 1-877-TIPS-4EC or 1-877-847-7432.
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