SALEM, Mass. — A Salem State University student and standout basketball player from Worcester was shot to death in Salem early Wednesday morning, hours after the city’s Halloween celebrations came to an end, law enforcement officials said.
Officers responding to a report of a shooting in the area of 22 Forest Avenue just before 1:30 a.m. found an 18-year-old victim in a crashed vehicle suffering from apparent gunshot wounds, according to Essex District Attorney Paul F. Tucker and Salem Police Chief Lucas Miller.
Salem State University President John Keenan identified the young man as Carl Hens Beliard.
Beliard was rushed to Salem Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
Missael Pena Canela, 18 of Salem is charged with his murder.
Beliard’s heartbroken mother said her last conversation with her son was about Thanksgiving plans and his upcoming birthday celebration.
“I’m still feeling not well. I’m still in shock and I still can’t believe it,” Altagrace Beliard told Boston 25 News. “It was on Tuesday. He called me on FaceTime while I was at work. He was telling me he was coming home for Thanksgiving. I was even planning with him to go out with him for his birthday.”
Carl would’ve turned 19 on November 11.
In a statement, President Keenan said, “As both the Salem State president and a college dad, this tragedy is heartbreaking for all in our community and every parent’s worst nightmare.”
A spokesperson for Worcester Public Schools confirmed in a statement that Beliard was a member of the 2023 Worcester North High School state championship basketball team. It was the first team in Worcester’s history to win a Division 1 championship.
“I am writing to share some very difficult news. We have learned that Carl Hens Beliard, a 2023 North High School graduate, has died unexpectedly. This is a devastating loss to our community,” Principal Sam FanFan wrote in a letter to the school community.
Beliard is listed as a freshman forward on the Salem State Vikings basketball roster.
Worcester Superintendent Rachel H. Monárrez described Beliard as an “accomplished athlete whose life ended just as it was just beginning.”
“I am devastated to learn about the passing of Carl Hens Beliard,” Monárrez said in a statement. “I cannot imagine the pain of the student’s family.”
“We lost a really close family member today,” said Al Pettway, Beliard’s former coach at North High. “He worked hard every day in practice, had a positive attitude, worked hard... he was a very ambitious young man.”
At the scene of the shooting, college friends of Beliard converged, a smattering of remembrances, including a basketball, at their feet.
“On the back of our jerseys, it says family,” said Pettway. “And that’s what we were.”
District Attorney Tucker said Beliard’s death was the result of “senseless gun violence.”
“This senseless gun violence is tragic not only for the victim’s family but for the SSU community and beyond,” Tucker said.
Beliard’s mother echoed a similar sentiment, saying in part: “This gun violence needs to stop. We have to find a way to do something about it.”
Chief Miller vowed that his department would work tirelessly to bring the perpetrators to justice.
“Our hearts are very much with the Beliard family and the Salem State University family,” Miller said. “Violence such as this has no place in Salem, and we will pursue the perpetrators with all of our ability and determination.”
A Boston 25 News crew on the scene saw at least one bullet hole that shattered the car’s back window. The car was towed away around 5:20 a.m.
Investigators noted that the shooting doesn’t appear to be a random act and that there isn’t any ongoing threat to the college community.
Witnesses recalled a great deal of commotion prior to a car crash in the area.
“It initially sounded like firecrackers,” a neighborhood resident told Boston 25. “We were all awake upstairs, and we all ran to the window because we heard the car crash.”
This shooting comes just days after a 19-year-old man was fatally shot on the campus of Worcester State University.
There has not been an arrest made in that shooting.
State police detectives assigned to the DA’s office are assisting Salem police detectives and university police with an investigation into Wednesday’s incident.
There were no additional details immediately available.
This is a developing story. Check back for updates as more information becomes available.
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