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Nearly two months after the shooting death of a popular high school athlete, police now have a suspect in custody.
Yohan Hernandez, 20, was arrested Thursday on charges of murder, aggravated assault, unlawful possession of a weapon, and possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose, according to a press release from the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office. The charges stem from the June 6 death of Moussa Fofana, 18, who was shot to death near the Underhill Sports Complex in Maplewood, New Jersey.
According to the Prosecutor’s office, “A second male victim was treated at an area hospital for a non-life-threatening gunshot wound," at the same time Fofana was shot.
Both victims were students at Columbia High School, according to New York’s ABC 7.
Maplewood Police responded to reports of a shooting near the sports field at approximately 9:39 p.m., the statement reported. Officers found Moussa Fofana “suffering from a gunshot wound.”
The teenager was pronounced dead on the scene at 10:24 p.m.
“My family felt a great sense of relief this afternoon upon hearing of the arrest in the shooting death of our beloved son, Moussa Fofana,” said the victim’s mother, Hawa Fofana, according to ABC 7. “We would like to express our gratitude to law enforcement and to our entire community for their commitment to justice over the last couple of months.”
It has not been made clear how investigators narrowed in on Yohan Hernandez, but the Essex County Sheriff’s Office and Crime Stoppers did issue a $20,000 reward leading to the identity of Fofana’s killer.
The reward was raised to $50,000 with the help of former Mayor Fred Profeta and community members, according to ABC 7.
“The investigation is ongoing,” said Kathy Carter of the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office, according to northjersey.com. “But during the course of the investigation, we received information and leads from the community.”
Fofana’s mother allegedly claimed that investigators said they weren’t sure whether or not Moussa and his friends were the intended targets and she believes it's possible that Fofana was struck by a stray bullet.
“They haven’t said that to me,” said Hawa Fofana in regards to the stray bullet. “But that’s what I feel.”
A motive for the shooting has not yet been determined.
“This is the beginning of justice for Moussa,” said Maplewood Mayor Frank McGehee, according to Maplewood’s The Village Green. “I am thankful that Ms. Fofana can start to have true closure and my thoughts are very much with her at this time.”
Moussa Fofana was a promising high school athlete who held dreams of becoming a professional soccer player. He was the son of a Liberian immigrant, according to northjersey.com, and lived with his grandparents in Liberia from ages five to 11.
While there, he found his passion for soccer when his uncle brought him to practice.
“[Moussa] would make jokes and make people laugh. He wanted to see that smile on everybody’s face,” said his mother, according to northjersey.com. “I’m not like that. I’m quiet. His father is also quiet. I don’t know [where he got it from]. Maybe God sent him to light up my life.”
The investigation remains ongoing and active.
Anyone with information is urged 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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