PISCATAWAY, NJ—The Rutgers University Police Department (RUPD) arrested two athletes on the school’s football team after they allegedly shot three people with paintballs while driving around Rutgers’ Livingston campus on the night of September 20.
Starting defensive back Malachi “Max” Melton was off to a great start on the season before the arrest, with eight tackles and two interceptions. Now he is suspended along with teammate Christopher Long, and facing charges of second-degree aggravated assault and third-degree unlawful possession of a weapon.
The two men were arrested, one on Livingston campus and the other in New Brunswick’s Birchwood Apartments, during the early morning hours of September 21, about four hours after the mayhem unfolded. Both were released and are due in Superior Court on November 4, according to RUPD Deputy Chief Michael Rein.
Melton also serves as a paid endorser of the notorious New Brunswick Development Corporation (DEVCO), along with his older brother, a Rutgers football player who has not been accused of wrongdoing.
DEVCO President Chris Paladino did not immediately respond to a request for a response and an update on the status of Melton’s deal, known as a “NIL,” short for “name image likeness.” This is the first year that college athletes can get paid from endorsements or appearances without breaking National Collegiate Athletics Association (NCAA) rules.
In recent years, the developer has had a controversial history when it comes to real estate in the city, including a failed supermarket in downtown, and another recent project that displaced over 700 children from their public school to make way for a hospital building, forcing the local kids to attend classes in a converted warehouse building in the industrial section of New Brunswick.
In all, police say three people were shot and injured by Max Melton and Christopher Long, though all three declined medical attention. Police did not release the names of the victims, instead referring to them as “Victim 1,” “Victim 2,” and “Victim 3” in their complaint.
It appears the shots were fired from a moving vehicle in three separate locations: 23 Avenue E (Quad 2, House 1), 62 Road 3 (the Livingston Recreation Center) and 53 Avenue E (Tillett Hall).
According to the RUPD’s complaint, the shots fired at the first victim hit them in the right elbow and caused them to bleed, while the second victim was hit in the left arm and lower back, leaving “bruising and welts,” and the third victim was struck in the lower abdomen and bled. All three shootings were described as “at close range” in the complaint.
“The incident did not generate any Crime Alerts as the perpetrators were taken into custody,” said Rein, though the arrests did not happen until 1:29am and 2:08am.
Rutgers football coach Greg Schiano, the highest-paid public employee in the state, declared that the two men were suspended from the team, according to NJ.com. Schiano’s squad had racked up a record of three wins and no losses, and will face Michigan University on September 25. It’s unclear if and when the two might return to the team.
This was not the first shooting involving a paintball gun in the area since Rutgers students returned to the campus.
According to Deputy Chief Rein, “On September 11, 2021 at approximately 11:19 PM, two (2) victims reported having been injured by, what was reported to be a paintball gun, while on Route 27 during an incident.”
Rutgers did not notify the community of that incident either, and has not provided any more specific information about the location of the incident, though the department’s crime log indicates it was near the interchange of Routes 18 and 27.
The same officer that signed the complaints against Melton and Long, RUPD’s Robert Pelligrino, is involved in investigating the September 11 incident, according to Rein’s response to a request for information under the Open Public Records Act (OPRA) filed by New Brunswick Today.
Charlie is the founder and editor of New Brunswick Today, and the winner of the Awbrey Award for Community-Oriented Local Journalism. He is a proud Rutgers University journalism graduate, a community organizer, and a former independent candidate for mayor of New Brunswick.