By John R. Ellement and Tracy Jan, Globe Staff
A 21-year-old Cambridge man died today after being shot on Monday inside an entrance of a Harvard University residence hall, and his mother said she has no idea why he would have been targeted in violence that jolted the quiet campus.
Justin Cosby died early this morning at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center after being shot once in the abdomen, according to his mother, Denise Cosby. In an interview today at her Cambridge home, Denise Cosby said that she last saw her son Monday afternoon with his longtime girlfriend. He left and said he'd be back soon, but it wasn't until 8 p.m. that the mother learned that her son had been shot.
"It's just so strange. He was fine, healthy yesterday," Cosby said. "I just can't believe my son is not here today. Inside I'm just torn up, I feel like someone has murdered me."
Middlesex District Attorney Gerald T. Leone Jr. said today that investigators want to speak to everyone near Kirkland House residence hall at the time of the shooting. Authorities are optimistic that they will be able to gather the evidence to capture the people responsible for the killing.
"We feel extremely bad for Justin's family," Leone said at a press conference at Cambridge police headquarters.
Leone said authorities do not believe Harvard students were involved in the shooting.
Denise Cosby said she had no idea why her son, a 2005 graduate of Cambridge Rindge & Latin High School who attended Salem State College until recently, was at Harvard on Monday afternoon or why someone would target him.
"This is the worst day of my life," said Cosby, who has a daughter who is coming in from Atlanta to be with the family.
Neighbors described Cosby as a tall, smiling helpful presence in their neighborhood and they were shocked that he had been murdered.
"I just can't believe that anyone would find it in their heart... to intentionally try to hurt him,'' said Isabelle Jackson. "He was just an angel."
Police were still searching for several suspects in the shooting, which shattered the calm of campus as students studied for finals.
Officials have not released details about the shooting. The residence halls are locked, and a key card is normally required for entry.
Harvard President Drew Faust did not respond to requests today for comment regarding dorm security. John Longbrake, her spokesman, told the Globe in a written statement: "We take issues of security extremely seriously. Harvard is an urban campus and we are constantly reviewing and assessing our security measures."
After authorities were alerted about the shooting at 4:50 p.m. Monday, they found the victim on Dunster Street, where he had made his way, outside Kirkland, one of Harvard's 12 undergraduate houses.
Cosby withdrew from Salem State in April after having accumulated enough credits for sophomore standing, according to Salem State spokeswoman Karen Cady.
He lived in a residence hall on campus his first two years, but was not taking a full academic load. This school year he commuted from Cambridge, she said.
“He was clearly well liked. He had a lot of friends here,” Cady said.
Cosby played intramural basketball and participated in social events run by the college’s multicultural student association and the Hispanic student association, she said.
“From what I understand he was very close to his family,” Cady said. “At one point his mom had injured her leg and he was going home daily to check on her.”
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