Students at Shakopee High School grieved Friday after a classmate was killed and two others were critically injured after a vehicle carrying five young people overturned Thursday afternoon west of the southwest metro city.
Ja’Mason Moffett, 16, a Shakopee High School junior, was pronounced dead at the scene.
Moffett’s sudden death sent shock waves through a school community in the early days of its new school year. Shakopee High students struck up several tributes throughout the day Friday for a teen who students and staff said was well-known and well-liked.
“You can see the hurt and the pain on a lot of student faces and staff this morning,” Principal Jeff Pawlicki said Friday. He called Moffett spirited.
The Scott County Sheriff’s Office is investigating the cause of the crash, which occurred shortly after 3 p.m. when the 2014 Jeep Cherokee heading south along Zumbro Avenue in Jackson Township left the road, hit a driveway and overturned. Two other passengers were being treated at Hennepin County Medical Center, according to the sheriff’s release on Friday. Sheikhnur Jimale, 17, of Shakopee, was in critical condition, and Hannah Chance, 17, also of Shakopee, was listed as stable, the Sheriff’s Office said. The driver, whose name had not been disclosed due to the investigation, was released from St. Francis Regional Medical Center, along with passenger Khalil Watson, 20, of Burnsville.
Pawlicki confirmed that one of the car’s occupants is also a Shakopee High School student.
It’s too early to tell whether alcohol or drugs were involved, said Scott County Sheriff Luke Hennen. The Sheriff’s Office, Hennepin County medical examiner’s office and Minnesota State Patrol were investigating.
“It’s always a tragedy when someone is injured or killed in an accident,” Hennen said in a release. “But the pain is particularly acute when we lose one of our young people, taking with them the loss of their future and their potential, and leaving only grief for those left behind.”
Aftershocks and tributes
After she heard about the crash, Shakopee High School senior Sydney Oxendale was on the phone with a friend. This was before she knew Moffett had died at the scene, before she knew the kid who everyone loved wouldn’t be at school the next day.
Oxendale’s friend was speaking on the other end, then stopped. Then she began to cry.
“She was like, ‘It was Ja’Mason that died,’ ” Oxendale said.
The news about Moffett spread across social media as students encouraged one another to don white garb in support. The students scribbled their thoughts on posters around the school. “Fly high,” some wrote. “Rest easy,” another scrawled.
“Everybody knew Ja’Mason,” said friend Chris Paulos, a Shakopee junior. “You could go anywhere and find someone who knew him.”
Neighboring schools jumped in with support, too: A Prior Lake Twitter account encouraged wearing white to school Friday. Mounds View students were signing a poster, a school account tweeted.
During its football game against Shakopee on Friday night, Eastview High School urged wearing white on a Twitter account linked to the school.
“We know all too well what the community is going through,” an account dubbed “Lakeville Strong” tweeted. A Lakeville North High School senior died unexpectedly in his sleep in August.
On Friday, students continued to pull up to the crash site along a gravel road. They said teachers weren’t taking attendance at school.
A pile of flowers and balloons grew there. Added to the tribute was a pair of glasses. Moffett hadn’t worn them for vision but kept frames without lenses to get some laughs. Moffett was on the school lacrosse team last year, students said, and aimed to make varsity this spring.
Some said that in honor of the Moffett family’s American Indian culture, they’ll keep a fire going at home until his funeral.
A GoFundMe page for Moffett’s family had raised more than $8,700 as of Friday afternoon. There, too, the tributes rolled in: Love to the family. Thoughts and prayers. Fifth hour won’t be the same.
Moffett’s family met with a sea of students on Friday at the high school, according to a photo the district posted on social media.
The family let kids know “they have each other,” the Shakopee district said.
Oxendale’s last memory of Moffett was simple: He’d come into her workplace recently just to say hi. He told her he loved her. She gave him a hug.
“Everyone is just heartbroken,” she said.
Staff writer Rachel Chazin contributed to this report.