WORCESTER, MASS. (WHDH) - Officials on Monday publicly identified the 19-year-old killed in a shooting on the campus of Worcester State University over the weekend.
The shooting happened at 2:30 a.m. Saturday and initially prompted a shelter-in-place order. Officials said Worcester State University Police soon responded to the shooting scene where they found two men with gunshot wounds.
Officials said a fight led to the shooting. A 19-year-old now identified Randy Armando Melendez Jr. of Southbridge later died of his injuries at a local hospital. A 21-year-old man wounded in the shooting appeared to have non-life-threatening injuries as of Sunday afternoon, according to the Worcester County District Attorney’s office.
Melendez Jr.’s stepmother Sashira Belfort shared a statement on Monday, saying “Our son was a great kid – hardworking – who loved being around friends and family.”
“He loved spending his spare time at home and with his family,” Belfort continued. “We are going through the hardest time of our life and wouldn’t wish this on anyone.”
Officials said neither the victims nor the assailants in this incident were students of Worcester State. DA Joseph Early said the incident did not appear to be random, adding that the parties involved appeared to know each other.
While the shelter-in-place order for Worcester State was lifted around 9:30 a.m. Saturday morning, authorities have been searching 18-year-old Kevin Rodriguez in connection with the shooting. The DA’s office said Rodriguez last lived in Lawrence and should be considered armed and dangerous.
Rodriguez is now wanted on charges including unlawful possession of a firearm and armed assault with intent to murder, according to the DA’s office. In its latest statement, the DA’s office said anyone who sees Rodriguez should call 911.
As authorities continue to investigate, officials have asked members of the public for help, urging anyone with additional photos or video of the incident to come forward.
Anyone with information on Rodriguez’ whereabouts is also asked to contact state police detectives at (508) 453-7589 or contact the Massachusetts State Police Fugitive Apprehension Section at 1-800-KAPTURE (1 800-527-8873).
Worcester State officials, in the meantime, told 7NEWS all precautions are being taken to make sure students are safe, with added police patrols around campus. Officials said they are also reviewing safety protocols.
“This is the first incident that has ever happened like this,” said Worcester State University Public Information Officer Maureen Stokes on Sunday. “These were not our students. Our students are safe and the campus community is safe.”
The university separately detailed counseling and support resources available for students and employees.
Worcester State’s campus was largely quiet Sunday night nearly 48 hours after the shooting. Monday morning, after a weekend of canceled on- and off-campus events, a banner on the university’s website said all day and evening classes would be canceled for the day.
“Please check your email for further updates and information,” the message said.
Back in Southbridge, the Southbridge Public Schools issued its own statement after Melendez Jr. was identified as the person killed in this shooting.
“The entire community of Southbridge is deeply saddened by the recent events that unfolded at Worcester State University this past weekend,” the district said. “We recognize that many families within our district have been profoundly affected by this heart-wrenching incident.”
School officials said the district would have counseling staff available on Monday.
“We encourage any student who feels the need for support to reach out and utilize the resources we are offering,” the district said. “Our dedicated team of counselors and mental health professionals are trained to provide guidance, listen with empathy, and offer coping strategies during such challenging times.”
Officials also urged parents and guardians to speak with their children about their emotions, “reminding them that they should seek help if they are struggling.”
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