$10,000 reward announced for arrest of killers.
Was the Indian American student Shani Patel, 21, a Junior at Rutgers University in Newark, New Jersey, who was shot dead last Sunday night and his roommate shot and critically injured, by unidentified assailants who are still at large, a victim of drug violence?
NJ Advance MediaÂ had earlier cited sources close to the investigation sayingÂ a substantial amount of drugs and money were found at the intersection of Central Ave. and Halsey Street in Newark, close to where Patel, an economics major, was shot dead in his off-campus apartment, and that the incident may have been a drug-related robbery.
101.5 FM Radio reported that Patel was sentenced to two years probation in 2014 in Toms River after police found him inside a car withÂ 50Â grams of marijuana, threeÂ empty sandwich bags and a digital scale.
Law enforcement sources told NJ Advance Media that the shooting that left Patel dead and his roommate seriously injured, is being investigated as a possible narcotics robbery gone wrong.
Patel’s 23-year-old roommate, a 2015 Rutgers-Newark graduate, was transported to University Hospital, where he underwent surgery and as of Monday was listed in critical condition, said prosecutor’s office spokeswoman Katherine Carter.
No arrests have been made, Carter said. An investigation into the killing is ongoing.
NJ Advance Media reported that Patel was still dealing with the fallout from a 2013 drug conviction at the time of his death, according to court documents. Court documents indicate Patel had intent to distribute the drugs found on him.
Bradley Billhimer, the attorney who represented Patel in the criminal case that resulted from the 2013 arrest, remembered him as a “bright young man,” according to Advance Media.
“He was keenly aware of the circumstances of his case,” Billhimer said. “I thought he’d be fine, which is why I was disheartened to hear that he’d been killed.”
Patel’s probationary period began in December 2015, after he lost an appeal challenging the police search that led to his arrest. According to court documents, a Tom’s River police officer responding to complaints of men smoking marijuana inside a parked vehicle discovered four sandwich bags filled with marijuana and a digital scale inside Patel’s car.
Patel pleaded guilty on June 16, 2014, to the marijuana offense and was sentenced on Sept. 5 of that year by Superior Court Judge Rochelle Gizinski in Ocean County to two years on probation. In December of the following year, an appeals court ruled that the search was lawful, the documents indicate.
Reached at their Tom’s River home, members of Patel’s immediate family declined to comment.
“Our deepest condolences go out to Shani’s family and to all who knew him as a student, colleague, or friend,” Rutgers Chancellor Nancy Cantor said of Patel in a statement released Monday.
Read an earlier related story: http://www.americanbazaaronline.com/2016/04/12/indian-origin-rutgers-university-student-killed-in-off-campus-shooting409726/
Rutgers Newark Chancellor Nancy Cantor wrote on the schoolâ€™s Facebook page that the shooting of the economics major was not random.Â On Tuesday morning, no arrests had been made. A $10,000 reward has been posted for information leading to an arrest in the killingÂ of Patel. No funeral arrangements have yet been announced for Patel.
Patel graduated from Toms River High School North in 2012.
â€œThe Toms River Regional school district community was very sad to learn of the murder of High School North 2012 graduate Shani Patel,â€Â school district spokeswoman Tammi Millar said in a written statement. â€œIt is hard whenever we lose such a young alumnus, but to lose Shani to violence is shocking. Our thoughts and prayers are with Shaniâ€™s family during this unimaginable and very sad time.â€