The mother of an incoming midshipman at the US Naval Academy was shot and killed at an Annapolis, Maryland, hotel, just hours after dropping off her son to start college.
Police say Michelle Cummings, 57, and her husband Leonard, were sitting on a hotel patio with another couple shortly after 12:01 a.m. Tuesday when shots were fired on a nearby street.
Cummings was hit, and police and emergency services personnel were unable to save her. She was declared dead at the scene, according to police.
The shooting comes as cities around the United States are grappling with a surge of gun violence and murder.
Annapolis Police Chief Edward Jackson told reporters on Tuesday that Cummings was not the intended target of the shooting.
He said the family had come from Houston to get their son, who is also a football prospect, settled in at school. Members of the Naval Academy Class of 2025 took their Oath of Office on Wednesday evening.
“My heart does go out to the family,” Jackson told reporters. “You come here with the expectation to see your son go on a journey in one of the most exciting times of his life only to be met by a reckless shooter.”
The US Naval Academy identified Cummings’ son as Midshipman Candidate Leonard Cummings III in a statement on social media.
“As members of our Naval Academy family, we will do all that we can to support Leonard, his father and the entire Cummings family during this unfathomable time,” Superintendent Vice Adm. Sean Buck said in the statement. “My wife, Joanne, and I, on behalf of all of us here in Annapolis, offer our deepest sympathies.”
Midshipman Cummings completed his check-in process Wednesday and has departed on emergency leave, the Naval Academy’s Public Affairs office told CNN in an email.
Jackson said several shots were fired at a parked car and that the shots “traveled a distance” before Cummings was shot.
He said detectives were working around the clock to solve the case and are reviewing surveillance video from the area and other evidence.
“What I’ll say to the shooter is, ‘Turn yourself in. We’re coming for you,'” Jackson said.
The FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives are assisting in the investigation and authorities are offering a $20,000 reward for information in the case, Jackson said.
Annapolis Mayor Gavin Buckley told reporters that authorities are focusing on getting guns off the streets.
“This city’s heart is broken. Somebody has lost their mom on the proudest day, probably, in her life,” Buckley said. “There are no circumstances where this can be tolerated.”
“She was so excited,” said friend Kashawana Moore, who told CNN affiliate KTRK that she’d talked with Cummings over FaceTime on Monday. “She said, ‘Wednesday we’re going to have a picnic and had shirts made.'”
Moore’s son also plays football at Navy and is best friends with Cummings’ son, she told KTRK.
Cummings was very active at the school and the community and was president of the football booster club at her son’s school.
She talked to KTRK last year when her son and two other Westfield High School teammates committed to play football at the Naval Academy and was beaming with pride at a parade for the players.
“It melts my heart. I love this kid dearly. He has done everything we’ve asked him to do,” she said at the time. “We could not ask for a better son.”
Her son Leonard got emotional when talking to KTRK at last year’s parade.
“She is probably one of the greatest moms in the world. I’ll always tell her this. I always tell her I love her, I give her a kiss on the cheek,” he told KTRK. “I just love my mom.”
Friends of the family have set up a GoFundMe campaign to help the Cummings family pay for funeral expenses and to transport her body to her hometown of Baton Rouge, Louisiana.