Investigators are still hunting for answers more than a year after a mechanical engineering student was shot dead in an Alabama parking lot in the early morning hours.
Jesse Alan Marchant Birt, 24, had called police shortly before he was gunned down in the parking lot of his Birmingham apartment complex on October 12, 2020.
“I don’t know why that boy didn’t just call 911 and go back inside,’’ Jesse’s dad, Timothy Birt, previously told AL.com in an interview at the time, adding that his son “wouldn’t hurt a flea.”
At roughly 1:30 a.m., cops rushed to the scene following a report about a single shot and found Birt with a gunshot wound. No arrests have been made.
Birmingham Police Department Sgt. Rod Mauldin said at the time that Birt had dialed 911 to report an unidentified person who appeared to be showing a gun to another person in the parking lot.
Birmingham police didn’t immediately respond to The Daily Beast’s request for comment Wednesday to address any updates made in identifying Birt’s killer, but AL.com reported on Tuesday that police were still seeking witnesses.
Cops initially believed Birt was walking his dog in the lot after they found a black Labrador in the complex. But Birt’s family said he didn’t have a dog and was likely looking after a stray, AL.com reported. They believe the slain animal advocate was likely trying to locate the dog’s owners or looking for the dog when he was killed.
“We’re guessing he was wandering around looking for the dog and we think he saw something and called police,’’ Timothy Birt said. “I would assume it was a woman in trouble. Jesse always stood up for what was right. My best guess is they saw him call 911 and shot him.”
Two days before he died, Timothy Birt had sat down to a pizza dinner with his son and the two had talked about his future. Jesse was one semester away from graduation at the University of Alabama at Birmingham and had hoped to work in thermodynamics and power generation or begin a career in car robotics. The news of his son’s death devastated him and his wife.
“I told him I loved him, and I was proud of him,’’ Timothy Birt told AL.com. “He was very happy.”
Birt said that his son was close with his mom, often chatting with her on the phone “for hours.” He was the couple’s only son, and he and his mom would often play the video game Dungeons & Dragons together, Birt said.
Birt’s thermodynamics professor, Dr. Hessam Taherian, had called him “the star” of his classes, according to a memorial scholarship for engineers established at the school in his name by his parents.
“If he heard arguing, he would go outside and try to calm the situation down… It was a moral thing for him.”
Taherian said Birt was bound to become a “successful engineer who would do great work for the country and the world” before his mysterious murder.
Hours after he died, Chassidie Hairston, Birt’s roommate, called police and local hospitals when she got home and couldn’t find him. He hadn’t answered her calls, she said. She feared the worst when neighbors told her that a person had been injured during a shooting earlier that day.
“If he heard arguing, he would go outside and try to calm the situation down,’’ Hairston told AL.com. “I always begged him not to do that, but it was a moral thing for him. He just wanted to help. I was terrified for this very reason. But it was something he had to do. It was part of his heart. At least he more than likely helped someone else that night.”