MUSKEGON HEIGHTS, Mich. (WOOD) — A torn piece of yellow police tape swung in the wind from the wooden fence in front of the home on Baker Street in Muskegon Heights Tuesday afternoon.
Next door, Alexis Sanchez and Chad Levasseur were still dealing with the shock and loss of Julius Muhammad, a man they say was more than just a good neighbor.
“Always was friendly. Always spoke. Always giving encouraging words and being uplifting,” Sanchez said.
Muhammad answered his front door around 7:30 Monday night.
Moments later, he was mortally wounded by a gunshot to the head.
He died a short time later at the hospital.
Known as a community activist, the 53-year-old was elected to Muskegon Heights Board of Education last month.
“He was telling me he thinks that the school board is one of the most important positions that there is in elected office because education is the future,” Levasseur said.
Investigators aren’t releasing many details on the investigation.
“They have some people that they want to talk to and locate. But whether, or how they’re connected, that remains to be seen,” Muskegon County Prosecutor D.J. Hilson told News 8.
They do not believe the shooting was connected to Muhammad’s election to the Muskegon Heights School Board.
“This is not a random incident. I think it’s safe to say that there’s some connection between our victim and the person who did this,” Hilson said.
The school board sent out a statement offering condolences to Muhammad’s family.
“The Board of Education extends our condolences to Julius’s family, children, grandchildren and all those he touched throughout his 53 years on earth. May they find peace, together, as they remember the good works Julius did during his lifetime,” the board said in the statement. “Board of Education members were looking forward to working with him in the new year. He had a desire to serve the Muskegon Heights community and its children as a newly elected school board member.”
Muskegon Heights schools are run by a private academy, governed by both an appointed and an elected school board. The academy has come under fire for a lack of teachers and other problems.
Muhammad wanted to bring change to the district.
“To like target or take out somebody who’s actually out there trying to make things better for our community and for the future and the world, is just sad,” Sanchez said.
Muskegon Heights Detectives and Major Crimes Task Force are investigating. Authorities have not released any suspect information.
Anyone with information is asked to call Muskegon Heights police at 231.733.8900 or Muskegon County Silent Observer at 231.722.7463.
— News 8’s Michael Oszust and Anna Skog contributed to this report.
Correction: A previous version of this article misspelled Muhammad’s last name. We regret the error, which has since been corrected.