Classes at Stockton University in Galloway Townhip won’t resume for two more weeks, but the community is reeling after word spread that Brittany Kologi, 18, was among four people killed in a New Year’s Eve shooting in Monmouth County.
Expressions of grief and words of support to surviving relatives have been shared over social media since the shooting. In September, Kologi began her freshman year and planned to study health sciences, the university said.
Friend and floormate Marissa Realdine, 18, of Runnemede, Camden County, said before the girls parted for winter break, they took photos together in front of the Christmas tree in the common room of the dorm.
“I never thought when we said goodbye for break, it would be a goodbye forever,” Realdine said.
Brittany Kologi, along with her mother, Linda, 42, father, Steven, 44, and family friend Mary Schultz, 70, were shot with a semi-automatic rifle by Kologi’s 16-year-old brother about 15 minutes before midnight Dec. 31, according to the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office.
Kologi was home for winter break when the shooting happened at her home on the 600 block of Wall Street.
Monmouth County Prosecutor Christopher Gramiccioni said another of Kologi’s brothers and a grandfather, as well as a 20-year-old woman, were able to escape unharmed. In addition, one dog and several cats were unharmed.
Schultz, of Ocean Township, was visiting the grandfather at the time, Gramiccioni said. He said the call to police came from one of the people who escaped the attack.
Realdine recalled Kologi’s bright smile, long hair and fun-loving personality. She met Kologi on move-in day Sept. 1 and said she and Kologi bonded over a love of cats.
“My favorite memory with Brittany was when we held a memorial service for her fish — Yolanda. Stockton gave away goldfish and she had the fish for two days before it passed away,” Realdine said. “It sounds crazy, I know, but we laughed all night over the fact that we held a service for a fish. I’ll never forget that.”
Realdine said Kologi’s death was a tragedy.
“No one deserves a death like that, but especially not her. She had goals and she was striving to achieve them. She was so determined and motivated to make something of herself — it was inspiring,” she said.
She said Kologi was beautiful inside and out, and was always there to support her friends: “She taught me so much in such a short time, and I am eternally grateful for the time I did have with Brittany.”
Stockton is offering counseling to students and staff upon their return for the spring semester Jan. 16.
“Brittany was proud to attend Stockton and we are grateful she chose to enroll here. As we offer our condolences, thoughts and prayers to Brittany’s loved ones and friends, collectively we mourn her passing as a member of our Stockton community,” Stockton University President Harvey Kesselman said in a statement Tuesday morning on Facebook.
In less than 24 hours, a gofundme.com fundraising page set up by Brian Yunker of West Long Branch to raise funeral costs exceeded its goal of $20,000. By Tuesday morning, the page had raised $22,820 from 477 people.
“Linda, Steven, and Brittany were all beautiful people with the kindest hearts you could imagine,” Yunker’s message on the gofundme.com page reads.
Police have not released the name of the juvenile brother accused of the murder, but Gramiccioni said he is being held at a youth detention center in Middlesex County and they intend to pursue prosecuting him as an adult.
Gramiccioni said a Century Arms semi-automatic rifle was used in the shooting. He said the weapon was legally obtained by a member of the household who was able to escape the shooting. He said the gun contained a magazine that held 15 7.62 mm rounds.
A retention hearing before Monmouth County Superior Court Judge James G. Troiano for the juvenile was postponed from Tuesday to 11 a.m. Wednesday after the Gannett news organization requested access to the usually confidential Family Court hearing. That access was denied, Gramiccioni announced via Twitter Tuesday night.
Two days after the retention hearing will be a probable cause hearing, similar to a detention hearing for adults.
The autopsy from the Middlesex County Medical Examiner’s Office showed each victim received multiple gunshot wounds at close range. Gramiccioni said he was not able to provide a motive yet, but to “stay tuned.”
“We think this was fairly sudden and quick,” he said, adding the victims weren’t all in the same room at the time of the shooting.
In total, eight people were in the home at the time of the attack, he said, but there was no indication of a party.
“This is a heartbreaking family tragedy,” Gramiccioni said. “When we seek justice for the remaining family members of those who died, the sad fact is that justice is likely going to involve serious punishment for another family member and loved one. That’s not a situation we see often here in law enforcement.”
He offered thoughts and prayers to family and friends of the Kologis and Shultz.
A vigil was scheduled for 6 p.m. Tuesday at Franklin Lake in West Long Branch for the Kologi family and Schultz.