MAYS LANDING — Demond Cottman was a focused young man, a father to a young baby, a loving son and a standout athlete who wanted to make a difference, said family and friends mourning him Friday.
Cottman, 21, of Atlantic City, was fatally shot in the Hamilton Mall parking lot outside Macy’s department store about 1 a.m. Friday. His brother, Shadi Cottman, 26, of Clayton, was wounded in the leg, said acting Atlantic County Prosecutor Diane Ruberton.
No arrest had been made as of Friday evening.
Friends and family arrived in a steady stream to pay their respects outside the Atlantic City home of Cottman’s father, Demond Tally. More than 300 people wrote condolences on his Facebook page.
Tally came outside to speak to a reporter but was too upset to talk.
Cottman’s aunt, Mona Tally, said her nephew was someone the family was immensely proud of as a father, son and grandson.
Her nephew was “goal-oriented” she said, studying as an electrical apprentice after a stint in the Air Force.
“He was highly intelligent,” Mona Tally said.
Prosecutors have not offered a motive for the shooting. The mall was closed at the time, but Macy’s was open.
“We send our deepest and sincere condolences to our associate and her family in the loss of a loved one,” said Elina Kazan, national spokeswoman for Macy’s. “We are fully cooperating with the local police department in their ongoing investigation.”
Kazan did not immediately respond to a request to identify the employee or clarify her relationship to Cottman.
Cottman was a 2013 Atlantic City High School graduate, a standout wide receiver on the football team and a track athlete.
“I’m going to miss my guy,” said Jarren McBryde, 22, a former Atlantic City High School quarterback who threw touchdowns to Cottman. “That was my boy.”
McBryde said he’s not often up in the middle of the night but he was awake when another of his former teammates, running back Domaneek Brown-Hurd, told him Cottman was dead.
McBryde, of Brigantine, said he and Cottman each transferred to the high school in their junior years, but they knew of each other from eighth-grade all-star football, where McBryde represented Brigantine and Cottman represented Atlantic City.
He and Cottman were offensive stars and, along with wide receivers Tyshiek Wright and Dayshawn Reynolds, were known as the Big Four, McBryde said.
Besides being a standout receiver and a track athlete, Cottman could play basketball and baseball, although he didn’t play those sports on an organized team, McBryde said.
“He was an all-around athlete. Anything he put his mind to, that kid could do,” McBryde said. “He was a great person. He looked out for you. He was a great kid.”
Investigators were at the shooting scene for much of Friday morning.
More than 15 evidence markers were placed in the parking lot, and an SUV with bullet holes was towed away about 7 a.m.
Shadi Cottman was in stable condition at AtlantiCare Regional Medical Center in Atlantic City, authorities said.
Demond’s interests extended beyond sports. He was a cast member in 2013 for “The Spe@k Project,” a 40-minute fictional movie made by an Atlantic City high school teacher that addresses struggles of teenagers in urban areas.
He graduated from the U.S. Air National Guard basic training in 2014.
Demond Cottman was named in March in a Press of Atlantic City article. City police charged him with obstruction of justice during their investigation of the shootings of three teenagers at a hotel party at Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort. The disposition of the charge was not immediately available, but Cottman was released on a summons.
Shadi Cottman was shot in May 2015, according to Press archives, and had been charged with third-degree resisting arrest in 2012. He was sentenced to 18 months after a third-degree simple assault charge in 2010.
Friday’s shooting occurred as shoppers were gearing up for Black Friday deals and promotions. The mall opened for business at 6 a.m. By 7 a.m., there were few signs of what happened hours earlier.
Jennifer Morales, 34, of Atlantic City, stood outside Macy’s Friday and said she knew of the victim and had heard about his death.
“It’s shocking, especially after the holidays. Nobody wants to bury their child,” she said.
Morales, who works at Buffalo Wild Wings near the mall, walked through Macy’s to get to work Friday. She said she was surprised to see the area in front of the mall not blocked off.
Neil Saunders, 41, was walking toward Macy’s with his 10-year-old daughter Friday morning when he heard others talking about a shooting in the parking lot.
“There was a shooting?” he asked, pausing in his step. “We’re out of here.”
Hamilton Mall management released a statement about the shooting. “Our thoughts and prayers are extended to victims and their families,” the statement read.
The Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office and Hamilton Township police are continuing the investigation.
Anyone with information is asked to call the Prosecutor’s Office at 609-909-7666 or police at 609-625-2700.
Mona Tally said her nephew leaves a baby, born in the spring.
Being a father was one of the last things McBryde and Cottman talked about two days ago at a restaurant in Mays Landing, McBryde said.
“We could go months at a time without talking or seeing each other, but we had mutual respect,” McBryde said.