Michael Eargle, a 28-year-old former defensive back at Purdue, was shot and killed in downtown Elizabeth in broad daylight on Tuesday afternoon.
Eargle had a 7- or 8-year-old son and was expecting a another child with his girlfriend, said a longtime friend who was among mourners gathered at the site of the shooting Wednesday morning.
The shooting occurred in a busy part of town, a few blocks away from Elizabeth police headquarters and next to YMCA. There are also two high schools near the scene.
“I was sitting over there in my car and saw three groups fighting and then they started running,” said one anonymous witness. “Then I heard five or six shots.”
Eargle was a standout football player at Elizabeth High before playing for the Purdue Boilermakers in 2010 and 2011. He graduated from Purdue in 2012 with a sociology degree.
Eargle was a maintenance worker at the Ford Leonard Towers apartment complex as an employee of the Elizabeth Housing Authority, and he grew up in the Mravlag Manor public housing complex, according to his aunt Deborah Bennett-Smith, who was called to the scene by his mother.
William Jones, the housing authority’s director, called Eargle’s loss “devastating.”
“He was a dedicated, valued member of our staff and well known in Mravlag Manor,” said Jones. “He is certainly one who cannot be replaced. Our thoughts go out to all who knew him.”
No arrests have been made in the shooting, and no suspect descriptions have been provided by authorities.
It is unclear what provoked the attack, but witnesses at the scene Tuesday said three groups of people were fighting before five or six shots were fired.
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