Vigil held for WSSU football player shot, killed at Wake Forest University event

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WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. -- Police are looking for a man in connection to the death of a Winston-Salem State University football player who was shot and killed at an event at Wake Forest University Saturday morning.

Police obtained arrest warrants to charge Jakier Shanique Austin, 21, with murder and possession of a firearm on educational property.

Winston-Salem police announced they have identified Austin as a suspect in the death of Najee Ali Baker, 21, just moments before a vigil began in his memory on Winston-Salem State's campus Wednesday night.

Family, friends, fellow athletes and students came together to remember Baker.

"He was one of those young men that just had that infectious sort of attitude," said Jamar Banks, associate vice chancellor and dean of students for the Division of Student Affairs at WSSU.

Baker, a Brooklyn native, was a stand-out football player and the oldest of three brothers.

“Did everything the right way, was never a problem," said Kienus Boulward, WSSU's head football coach. “Never a trouble to anybody, which is a strong reflection of his family background.”

After just one full semester of Winston-Salem State's campus, Baker was a true Ram, whose legacy will live on through other students.

"Let us use the life and death of Najee Baker to become better people, better institutions and better communities," said Javonty Hunter, the president of WSSU's Student Government Association.

At the vigil, members of the Ram community aired their frustration.

"I’m tired. Tired of us being on this side of the violent crime statistic rather than the graduation statistic," Banks said. "I’m exhausted by parents, families, students coming together for these kinds of sad occasion rather than the joys of celebration and triumph.”

They questioned why Baker's life ended in such violence.

“Nobody should have to go through this. You send your kid to school to get an education, to learn, to better his life," Boulward said.

They also opened their arms to friends and strangers alike, encouraging everyone to lean on each other while the healing begins.

“One step at a time, one day at a time, but only time is going to heal such a thing," Boulward said. "But we’ll never forget this moment. We’ll never forget Najee.”

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