A New Year’s Eve celebration turned into a family nightmare when an autistic 16-year-old fatally shot his father, mother, sister and his grandfather’s partner at their Jersey Shore home, officials said.
The teen, Scott Kologi, used a Century Arms semi-automatic rifle to kill his parents, Steven and Linda Kologi, his 18-year-old sister, Brittany, and 70-year-old Mary Schultz, Monmouth County Prosecutor Christopher J. Gramiccioni said.
The suspect opened fire less than 20 minutes before the family would have rung in the New Year at their Long Branch, N.J., home, officials said.
Police responded within a minute of receiving a 911 call. Officers found the four victims and arrested the 16-year-old — the youngest of four siblings — without incident.
“Thankfully it was uneventful,” Gramiccioni said of the arrest at a Monday morning press conference. “It didn’t require any force.”
Scott Kologi was charged as a juvenile with four counts of first-degree murder and one count of possession of a firearm for an unlawful purpose, according to officials. He is expected to make an initial appearance in court tomorrow.
It’s unclear if the suspect’s case would be elevated to adult criminal court, a spokesman for the prosecutor said.
Steven Kologi Jr., one of the gunman’s brothers, and their grandfather, Adrian Kologi, were also in the home at the time of the shooting but were not injured, officials said.
The shooter’s grandmother, Carole Kologi-Zawacki, broke down in tears when she learned of the killings.
“Oh my God, Oh my God, Oh my God,” Kologi-Zawacki, 66, said from her Bradenton, Fla., home.
Her husband, Gregory Zawacki, 63, said the 16-year-old suspect is autistic.
“We didn’t know they had a gun in the house,” he said, adding that the Kologis were not gun enthusiasts or hunters.
Zawacki said his wife spoke to the family by phone the other night and everything seemed normal.
“You can hear my wife, it was totally a shock,” he said.
The shooting sent shock waves through Long Branch, a sleepy middle-class town about an hour south of New York City. Police had cordoned off the Kologis’ three-family home and the entire block surrounding it.
Sergio Diaz, 41, a neighbor of the Kologis, said he heard the gunfire.
“I went out to get a few beers off the porch and I heard pop, pop, pop, pop, pop,” he said. “I heard like 10 shots.”
He said he initially thought the shots were fireworks.
“Next thing I know I see the police lights,” he said.
A neighbor who declined to give his name said Steven Kologi, 44, coached baseball.
“It’s totally out of the blue,” the neighbor said. “He’s my son’s baseball coach, for years and years. I was the assistant coach. We're just stunned.”
Steven listed his occupation as a mailman for the U.S. Postal Service in a 2009 bankruptcy filing. Linda, 42, was collecting unemployment at the time, according to the filing. They had four children.
Their son Steven Jr., who survived the shooting, wrote a tribute to his parents on his Instagram account after the tragedy.
“My New Years resolution is to be as great of a parent as my parents were to me,” he wrote after saying he was safe.
“I know many of you don’t want to read long bios but they were the greatest parents I could ask for.”
The son praised his parents for always providing for him and his siblings — even in lean times.
“Never once was I without a hot meal or a roof over my head,” he wrote.
“They made sure Christmas came every year although they struggled financially.”
His sister, Brittany, was a first-year student at Stockton University in New Jersey and had recently returned home for the holidays.
She wrote on her Facebook page last month how she was still adjusting to the changes in her life.
“Coming home as a student is so confusing like do I unpack?” she wrote on her Facebook page. “Do I live out of a suitcase for a month? Do I just leave everything on the floor?”
Steven Jr. described his sister in his Instagram post as “beautiful and smart.”
“She just got done with her first semester of college, and was on the process to being great with whatever she chose,” he wrote.
Schultz and Adrian Kologi own a home in Oakhurst, N.J., according to property records. A man who answered the door at the home on Monday declined to talk.