WINSTON-SALEM, NC -- Wake Forest University and Winston-Salem State University are separated by nine miles but on Wednesday night, both campus communities were connected in their grief.
Hundreds of students, staff, and family members attended a vigil in honor of 21-year-old Najee Ali Baker, a transfer student at WSSU and a member of the football team.
Vigil For WSSU Football Player Shot, Killed at Party
Police say someone shot Baker during a fight at an event space called "The Barn" on Wake Forest's campus Saturday.
His death has had a resounding impact on students from both schools.
“I never thought I would hear about something like that on any college campus that I chose to go to,” said Hailey Morrison, a freshman at WFU. “Things like this happen and they are so unexpected.”
“I was profoundly impacted by his death. I was extremely saddened,” said Asia Parker, who says she attended the party where Baker was shot. “It just really reminded me of how short life is and how important it is to really cherish every moment of it.”
WSSU Head Football Coach Kienus Boulware says the team is taking things day by day.
“We have guys who have seen things like this on TV before but never in person,” said Boulware. “For some of his teammates to have been there and to see Najee laying on the ground, it's traumatic.”
Boulware says the team’s grief pales in comparison to what Baker's family is feeling.
“One of the worst fears you can have as a coach is to have to engage in conversation with the parent knowing their kid will never come home again,” said Boulware.
Friends and family signed a poster with messages of love and support for Baker's family.
The crowd also released balloons in celebration of his life.
Boulware says the team will lean on each other to keep Baker's legacy alive.
“We will take this in stride but our hearts are heavy right now,” said Boulware. “I just ask everybody to continue to pray for his family.”
Winston-Salem police have issued an arrest warrant for Jakier Austin in connection to Baker's death.
University officials told us Austin was a student at Winston-Salem State but last fall was his final semester on campus.
If you have any information on Austin’s whereabouts, call Winston-Salem police.