WMU athlete in custody in connection to shooting; victim ID’d

Undated courtesy photo of Joeviair Alize Kennedy. (Western Michigan University)

KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — Police say a student-athlete is in custody after being named a person of interest in connection to the fatal shooting of a Western Michigan student.

A source close to the investigation told 24 Hour News 8 that 20-year-old Joeviair Kennedy, who is a WMU basketball player, is in custody. According to jail records, police have requested a felony homicide charge.

Kalamazoo Public Safety officers and WMU police responded to a report of a man who had been shot in the 700 block of S. Howard Street, west of WMU in Kalamazoo in the SoHo apartments. It happened around 10:30 p.m. Thursday. Witnesses say it happened inside an apartment on the 4th floor of building 760.

Witnesses say the shooting happened inside an apartment on the 4th floor of building 760. (Dec. 9, 2016)
Witnesses say the shooting happened inside an apartment on the 4th floor of building 760. (Dec. 9, 2016)

When police arrived on scene, they found the body of a 19-year-old man who had died from an apparent gunshot wound. Friday night, police identified the man as Jacob Ryan Jones.

WMU officials confirm he was a student at the university.

“The University has learned that the victim of last night’s shooting was a WMU student. The WMU community is stunned by the realization that a promising life has been lost. We extend our condolences to the family and commit to working with law enforcement officials to ensure that the responsible individuals are apprehended and that justice is served,” said WMU President John M. Dunn in a release.

WMU’s Division of Intercollegiate Athletics said in a statement Friday evening that a student-athlete had been named a person of interest in the case by law enforcement. The student was immediately suspended.

The statement said in part, “In conversation with law enforcement, Kalamazoo Public Safety indicated to us their desire to locate and talk with one of our current student-athletes in connection to this Incident. The University and Division of Intercollegiate Athletics have and will continue to fully cooperate with law enforcement as they carry out their investigation. The student-athlete in question, referred to as a person of interest by law enforcement officials, has been immediately suspended by the Division of Intercollegiate Athletics.”

The police chief told 24 Hour News 8 they believe the victim was selling a small amount of marijuana at the time of the shooting.

Police respond to deadly shooting in the 700 block of Howard Street near Western Michigan University. (Dec. 9, 2016)
Police respond to deadly shooting in the 700 block of Howard Street near Western Michigan University. (Dec. 9, 2016)

“Anytime you’re selling, even if it’s a little bit of marijuana it raises the stakes. It’s not as innocent as many people tend to think it is,” said Chief Hadley.

The chief said the crime is not related to a drug deal shooting that happened in Kalamazoo Monday night.

Witnesses told authorities that two men ran from the scene. Authorities believe they left the area in a vehicle that was parked nearby.

“That’s all I heard, gun shot and a ‘herd’ of people,” said Jackie Jener, a junior at WMU who lives a few floors below the victim.

Following the shot being fired, she and a roommate heard people running down the stairs. Through the peephole they saw two males.

Earlier Friday, police released the following descriptions of the suspects.

The first suspect is described as a black man, about 5 feet 10 inches tall with a slender build. He was last seen wearing jeans, a black hooded sweatshirt and had a red bandanna covering his face. He was also armed with a handgun.

The second suspect is described as a black man, about 6 feet 4 inches tall with a slender build. He was last seen wearing jeans, a dark-colored hooded sweatshirt and had a dark bandanna covering his face.

The police chief cautioned the crime was an isolated incident and the public is not at risk.

Anyone with information is asked to call KDPS at 269.337.8994 or Silent Observer at 269.343.2100.