EAST ORANGE, N.J. — A man who was denied access to a private party at an apartment near Seton Hall University left and returned with a handgun, then fatally shot a student and wounded four people, sending screaming partygoers rushing out the door and climbing out windows.
Seton Hall student Jessica Moore, 19, died from her injuries Saturday afternoon, said Katherine Carter, a spokeswoman for the Essex County Prosecutor's Office. Moore had been hospitalized in critical condition after the shooting just before 12:20 a.m.
The other four victims were hospitalized with non-life-threatening injuries, and one has been released, said East Orange Police Sgt. Andrew Di Elmo.
The victims did not know the shooter, who fled from the apartment on foot, Di Elmo said. Police offered a $10,000 reward for information leading to the suspect's capture.
Police said that two of the wounded are both 19-year-old women who go to Seton Hall, and one is a 25-year-old man who attends the New Jersey Institute of Technology. The fifth victim is a 20-year-old man from New York City who is not a student.
Moore was a sophomore honors student from Disputanta, Va., majoring in psychology, said the university's interim president, Gabriel Esteban. Esteban, who appeared to be on the verge of tears during a news conference on campus, said he had been with the students' families in the hospital all day.
"It's a call no parent wants to get," he said.
Police were not releasing the other victims' names because the shooter remains at large, Di Elmo said.
A student who said she attended the party and had classes with Moore said a fight started after a man was kicked out because he didn't want to pay the cover charge. The woman did not give her name, citing fears for her safety because the shooter was not in custody.
She said the man came back and began firing.
"This girl was here to go to school and nothing else, and she just wanted to go have fun, and we all were having fun 30 seconds before that happened," the woman said of the shootings.
Another partygoer told The Star-Ledger of Newark that he was in the kitchen and heard people shouting in the living room when a shot rang out. More shots were fired as the panicked crowd stampeded toward the back of the house to try to escape, the man said. He also declined to give his full name to the newspaper out of fear for his safety.
The apartment is less than a mile from the university. Well-kept row homes line the street, but a main cross street leads to a tougher part of town.
Police cruisers and orange cones blocked traffic to the block the apartment is on. An electronic highway sign propped up down the street offered a reward for information and gave a tip line phone number.
Mary Williams, a 59-year-old retiree who lives next door, said she was in bed when she heard the gunshots, and she called 911.
"I seen people scattering, climbing out the window, trying to get out the front door, back windows, a lot of hollering and screaming," Williams said in a telephone interview.
A number of people who fled the house sought refuge at a White Castle restaurant down the street, said Vanie Estime, an employee there.
"I was doing the drive-in and I heard screaming through my headset," she said.
Some 500 students, faculty and staff attended a Saturday evening prayer service for Moore at the university, where participants were asked to describe her in one word. They chose "sunshine" and "strong" and "selfless."
Esteban said that Moore's family – her parents, grandparents, uncle – had arrived on campus, where she lived in a dormitory, and were mourning her death and praying for her also.
After the service, Christian Powe, who said he and Moore were first classmates and then "real tight" after sharing an oral rhetoric class together, called her someone "you can really open up to."
She was nicknamed "Tennessee," he said, a nod to her roots there, and said she was a fan of the NBA's Los Angeles Lakers, texting him the scores of their games when he couldn't watch them on TV.
He had returned from a college retreat in Pennsylvania for the prayer service.
"She had a magnetic personality," he said.
The school's Department of Public Safety urged students to "travel in groups when walking off campus."
Student Connor McCormick, of Colchester, Vt., said the school sends campuswide e-mails whenever a mugging occurs.
"We probably get one a week," said McCormick, 19, adding than when students go off campus, "You don't walk alone."
Seton Hall, a private Catholic university in nearby South Orange, about 15 miles west of New York City, enrolls about 10,000 students.
Henry reported from South Orange, N.J. Associated Press writer Tom McElroy in New York City contributed to this report.