MAPLEWOOD, NJ — The Essex County Prosecutor’s Office announced on Aug. 6 that a 20-year-old Newark man had been arrested and charged with the June 6 murder of Moussa Fofana, an 18-year-old Maplewood resident and Columbia High School junior. Yohan Hernandez was charged with murder, aggravated assault, unlawful possession of a weapon and possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose.
Officers from the Maplewood Police Department responded to reports of a shooting at Underhill Field on the night of June 6; Fofana died at the scene. Another male victim was treated at a hospital for a non–life-threatening gunshot wound. According to a press release from the ECPO, Hernandez’s arrest came after an investigation led by the office’s Homicide/Major Crimes Task Force, with assistance from the MPD, the Essex County Sheriff’s Department, the FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
“My family felt a great sense of relief this afternoon upon learning of the arrest in the shooting death of our beloved son, Moussa Fofana,” Hawa Fofana, Moussa’s mother, said in a statement on Aug. 6. “We would like to express our gratitude to law enforcement and to our entire community for their commitment to justice over the last couple of months.”
A reward was offered for information leading to the arrest; former Maplewood Mayor Fred Profeta started a fund that collected more than $40,000 in donations, which was offered in addition to $10,000 from the Sheriff’s Office. Authorities did not say whether the arrest resulted from a tip from someone claiming the reward.
“The coordination of efforts between the agencies involved was unprecedented. I can’t thank the officers enough for their hard work and dedication, which led to the arrest,” MPD Chief Jimmy DeVaul said in an email to the News-Record on Aug. 9. “I have no words to describe the tragedy that took the life of Moussa Fofana. As a parent, I can only imagine the incredible loss his family must feel. The police department and the prosecutor’s office is only a part of finding justice for Moussa, and soon it will be up to a jury. Unfortunately, confronting their son’s killer will be the hardest part of the process for the Fofana family. They will feel victimized, hatred and anger again. The police department will stand with the family and provide much (of) the needed support and strength that (they) will certainly need. Our commitment to the family and our community is unwavering.”
Mayor Frank McGehee said the community will continue to support the Fofanas as the case moves forward.
“I am thankful that Ms. Fofana can start to have true closure, and my thoughts are very much with her at this time,” McGehee said in a statement to the News-Record on Aug. 9. “As a community, we will continue to support Ms. Fofana and her family. As elected officials, activists and concerned citizens, we must continue our fight to rid our community and county of illegal guns.”
South Orange–Maplewood School District Superintendent Ronald Taylor also released a statement, thanking the MPD, ECPO, Sheriff’s Department, FBI and U.S. Attorney’s Office.
“As a district, our hearts are still heavy at the loss of a young man’s life cut far too short; it is unimaginable that we would lose one of our very own to such a senseless act of violence. However, today, we also breathe a sigh of relief that a break has been made in the case and that the Fofana family is able to begin the process of healing and to see that justice is achieved for Moussa,” Taylor said. “While there is no solace equal to the loss of one’s child, we pray and hope that this conclusion will bring comfort and perhaps some closure for the Fofana family, friends and loved ones.”
The ECPO said the investigation remains active and ongoing; anyone with information can contact the task force at 877-847-7432. Calls will be kept confidential.