**Editor’s Note: 24 Hour News 8 has removed the name and images of a Holland man authorities previously named as a suspect because he has been cleared in the homicide case. Authorities have determined he was not in Michigan at the time of the shooting.***
HOLLAND TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — Police have identified the teen killed in a Saturday morning shooting at the Hampton Inn in Holland Township.
Troy “T.J.” Wells Jr. of Holland was identified as the 14-year-old victim. He suffered multiple gunshot wounds. A forensic autopsy will be performed at Blodgett Hospital in Grand Rapids.
Prosecutors authorized murder and weapons charges against a 23-year-old Holland man and a warrant was issued for his arrest. He later turned himself in to police in Texas and was cleared; authorities said he wasn’t in Michigan at the time of the shooting.
Capt. Mark Bennett of the Ottawa County Sheriff’s Department told 24 Hour News 8 that two groups of people rented rooms inside the hotel for a party. A number of minors attended that party.
“We’re working through who booked the rooms (and) what the intent of those bookings were,” Bennett said. “There were two separate get-togethers; unfortunately, these two get-togethers seem to have clashed.”
Bennett said there was some sort of altercation that led to the shooting in a hallway inside the building. Police say a number of people who may be connected to the shooting took off.
The hotel was searched and no other victims were found.
Investigators say there appear to be some gang relationships and they’re working to get more information.
The gang allegations are disputed by the victim’s family.
“T.J. was a smart, intelligent, young man, loved to dance, keep you laughing keep you smiling, he was not in no gang like the police are trying to say,” the victim’s aunt Vernice Perry told 24 Hour News 8 on Saturday night.
The victim went to West Ottawa Public Schools’ Macatawa Bay Middle School. He transferred to the middle school in November and previously attended Holland Public Schools.
“Everywhere T.J. went. He was no stranger, real friendly, (would) come up to you, speak to you, hug you, everybody loved T.J. from Chicago to Bloomington to Michigan,” Perry said.
She said her nephew was born in central Illinois, lived in Chicago and moved to Holland.
According to Perry, the family wants the killer brought to justice.
“He didn’t deserve what he got, to shoot him multiple times over a fight,” Perry said.
“I don’t want my family going after him, trying to retaliate, I don’t want that, I just want him to be brought to justice because he has a mother also,” she added.
West Ottawa Public Schools officials say they will have help available for those who need it next week.
Police ask anyone with information on the shooting or the whereabouts of the suspect to contact Silent Observer at 1.877.88.SILENT.
Below is the statement issued by Holland Public Schools on Saturday:
Dear HPS Families and Friends,
This weekend, the Holland community experienced a tragic loss. The shooting death of 14-year-old, Troy “TJ” Wells — a former member of the Holland Public School family — leaves us all shocked and grieving. We extend our deepest sympathy to Troy’s family and friends. There are no words that can adequately express our shared grief in the face of such a tragedy.
While we are still gathering information, I would like to share with you what our schools have planned thus far to support our students and families in the days ahead.
The District Crisis Team and administration met today with local law enforcement representatives to review our safety protocols in preparation for the return to school on Tuesday, as well as the Holland High School Snowcoming dance this evening (2/16/19).
While there is no current threat to our students or schools, the following proactive measures are being put in place to protect the health and safety of students and staff members:
- We have crisis counselors on staff who are able to work with students and family members who are in need of individual support. We understand that a situation like this can be difficult to comprehend and contextualize — particularly for children and teens. District crisis team members will be available at each of our schools to support any staff or students that may be impacted by this event; specifically at Holland Middle School and Holland High School. If you or your child is in need of any assistance that we can provide, please call the District Administration Office on Monday at 494-2000, contact your school office on Tuesday, or if you need more immediate assistance, please email me directly at email@example.com. Students who are having trouble coping with fear, anxiety, grief or uncertainty are encouraged to seek counseling. Our teachers and building administrators will be vigilant, as well, in watching for signs of trauma in their students.
- District administration will continue to monitor and assess the details of the events that happened and address any additional supports that are needed.
- Our highly trained staff is well equipped in crisis management. They have reviewed our safety protocols. Where we believe necessary, additional safety procedures are being implemented.
Snowcoming Dance Protocol:
- Students will enter the main front doors of the high school near the high school offices as previously instructed.
- Only students and their approved guests who purchased tickets in advance may attend the dance this evening. All students upon arrival will be verified that they have pre-purchased tickets. Student ID badges will be scanned and verified. Previously approved guest attendees will also be verified.
- All students and their personal belongings — including coats, purses, or other items — will be checked by a Holland Public Schools’ employee in the presence of a male/female staff member. (new)
- Student belongings will be secured in a designated coat-check area.
- Students should anticipate that check-in to the dance may take longer than check-in at our fall homecoming dance. Please plan accordingly.
- As per our standard protocol, there is no re-entry to the dance if students leave.
- As is standard practice, administrators, faculty/staff, parent/community chaperones as well as Holland Police Department officers will be present this evening.
The Holland Public Schools Board of Education is committed to maintaining a school environment in safe, secure and predictable settings. We also recognize that tragedies such as the one that occurred on February 16, 2019, are multifaceted problems that need to be addressed in a manner that utilizes the best resources and coordinated efforts of school district personnel, law enforcement agencies, and families. Working together, we can provide for the safety and welfare of our students while they are at school, a school-sponsored activity, or while enroute to or from school.
Finally, while this incident did not take place on or near school property, I would like to stress the priority we place on the safety and security of all our students. We have comprehensive programs, policies, and procedures in place to ensure our schools are safe. Our faculty, building administrators, and counselors are trained in crisis intervention techniques, and we employ an associate dean of schools at each of our buildings to assist in our work. These highly trained individuals work directly with students to identify ways to keep our schools safe and our students secure.
I will continue to provide updated information as it becomes available and applicable to the safe operations of our schools and school-related activities.