Late Night Murder Has Police Searching For Answers

By: Dave Byknish Email
By: Dave Byknish Email

Shortly before 1 a.m. someone was throwing a party at an apartment complex on Port Republic Road. A fight broke out in the breezeway outside Ben Graessle's apartment.

We don't know if Graessle was involved in that fight, but we did learn these types of disagreements aren't uncommon there.

"Here it seems like, at this one particular building down here, it seems like that get a lot of people that aren't college students," said neighbor Michael Dawson. "They seem to come and cause a lot of trouble here."

Graessle was in the process of transferring from Blue Ridge Community College to J.M.U.. Because of someone with an itchy trigger finger, he'll never make it.

"My roommate was watching TV and I just passed out," said Tyler Estes, another neighbor. "He started hitting me violently. He was like wake up wake up, I've heard three gunshots. We heard people screaming, running around. We heard he's dying, he's dying."

People who heard the commotion say they thought someone was setting of fireworks. Estes said it definitely sounded deliberate.

"It wasn't three direct bursts. It was like a second or two between each blast, like the guy was actually aiming for a certain spot."

"I knew it wasn't a large caliber if it was gunshots because it wasn't too loud," said Dawson. "When I came out and saw what had happened, my best guess was it was a .22 round."

Bystanders said the scene was so bloody that they weren't able to tell who the victim was. Someone immediately tried to give Graessle mouth-to-mouth until rescue squads arrived.

"I saw they were doing chest compressions and it looked like he was breathing a little bit," said Dawson. "I went back inside. Came back out a few minutes later and then at that point they had a defibrillator on him. Went back inside. Came back outside about ten minutes later and he was covered in a white sheet."

Friends rushed to Twitter to give their condolences. Many offering prayers, sharing pictures and remembering better days.

All of them missing a young man taken before his time.

Harrisonburg Police are asking that anyone with anyone with information on this tragedy call them or crime solvers at 574-5050


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