SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) - Friends and family of Jonathan Tallaj, also known as "JT," say he was "one of the good guys." He'd never been arrested, they say, and wasn't involved in drugs or gangs.
Instead, the 25-year old had dreams of working in the medical field, dreams that ended tragically Tuesday night after he was shot in front of his Wilmont Street apartment while walking home from dinner at a neighbor's house. Jonathan succumbed to his injuries Wednesday at Baystate Medical Center. Police are still investigating, but friends and family told 22News they believe his death was a tragic case of mistaken identity.
Tallaj's death is Springfield's 14th homicide of the year, and it hits far too close to home for people on Wilmont Street. The shooting happened just a few houses down from where 18-year-old Brittany Perez was shot to death in 2009 and 25-year-old Christopher Washburn was fatally stabbed in 2008.
"It makes me very nervous," said Ivelisse Rodriguez. "I have a newborn. Now I have to worry about when he's older, like, can I let him come out on the street to play? Do I have to worry that it could be him next?"
Jonathan's aunt Nereida Perez is fed up with the violence.
"I understand a lot of people got killed on this block," she said. "But it ain't the people that live on this block. It's the people that don't live on this block that do this action."
Dozens of people gathered to pay their respects outside Jonathan's apartment building Wednesday afternoon. Among them were his young nephews and many of the neighborhood kids, who recalled fond memories of "JT" picking up the tab for the ice cream truck, or teaching them to swim at the lake. Even through their sadness, they haven't given up hope that someday, things will change in their Forest Park neighborhood.
"A better future."
"A better town. And nice people. Stop doing violence and stuff."
If you have any information you are asked to call the Springfield Detective Bureau at: 413-787-6355...or you can text-a-tip.