A 21-year-old individual named Jason Vicari has been charged with the murder of his grandfather through the use of an ax on Tuesday, according to the arrest report from the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office. This comes after several reports were made about alleged threatening behavior from Jason Vicari on campus, according to neighbors.
There is a student named Jason Vicari registered as a School of Environmental and Biological Sciences sophomore, said John Cramer, director of public and media relations at the University.
Jason Vicari’s father called 911 at 9:30 a.m. on Tuesday saying that the suspect had barricaded himself inside his grandfather Ronald Vicari’s home, located on Beechwood Avenue in Elmwood Park, while in possession of a handgun, according to an article from NorthJersey.com. Jason Vicari’s father reported that Ronald Vicari had a head injury and was unconscious in the bathroom.
The Elmwood Park Police and the Bergen County Regional SWAT Team came to the scene and found Ronald Vicari dead with the head of an ax next to him, according to an article from NJ Advance Media.
The arrest report states that Jason Vicari said, “God told me to do it,” according to the article. It also said, “Mr. Jason Vicari uttered that he believed his grandfather was a monster and that God told him he would have to change his religion.”
Bethany Brooks, a School of Environmental and Biological Sciences junior, commented on the incident as someone who reportedly had multiple interactions with the suspect and lived across from him in the Newell Apartments on Cook campus.
“When I first met (Jason) Vicari, nothing seemed out of the ordinary,” she said. “I had multiple occasions where he, some of his roommates and my roommates would hang out. We all played board games together, went on a hike together and had cooking nights. He even made zucchini chips for my roommates and I as a way to get to know us.”
Brooks said he claimed a few weeks into the semester that one of his roommates was causing issues and that Residence Life had told him to stay away from his apartment as much as possible. She let him stay in her apartment instead upon his request.
She said she began to notice unusual behavior from him during this time, such as pacing around the apartment for hours and stating that he wanted to fight certain individuals. She said he claimed on the last night she let him stay over that one of his roommates had taken his phone and student ID card.
After this, she said she began to distance herself from Jason Vicari. She said he later asked one of her roommates to let him sleep on their couch.
Katie Faust, a School of Arts and Sciences senior and one of Brooks’ roommates, said she had refused to let him stay over. Brooks said this led to a verbal altercation between Jason Vicari and one of their other roommates later that week on Sept. 19 in the apartments.
“He just went off on her and started yelling at her, said that she and I both weren’t willing to help him get his roommate removed,” Faust said. “He was saying how he tried to sleep on our couch the night before — I had said no — and he was yelling how I didn’t let him do that and how she was never helpful. And then she had called us, crying.”
Jason Vicari allegedly threatened his roommate with an ax later that day, which both Brooks and Faust said they learned from the roommate.
Faust said the Rutgers University Police Department (RUPD) escorted his roommate to a new room and confiscated Jason Vicari’s ax from his car. She and Brooks said they spoke to Residence Life regarding this incident and were told he was no longer a threat with the ax taken away.
“We were also told that there is a difference between feeling unsafe and being unsafe,” Brooks said. “In that moment when the weapon was confiscated, we all knew that we were not overreacting.”
According to Residence Life policy, a weapon is defined as "any object or substance designed to inflict a wound, cause injury or incapacitate or create a reasonable fear of harm."
"Any student or guest in possession of an illegal weapon in a residence hall or apartment will face possible arrest. All Residence Life staff members are required to notify the Rutgers University Police Department if they become aware of the presence of any weapon inside the residence halls at any time," the policy states.
In a Facebook post, Faust stated that one of his roommates allegedly confirmed that the suspect acquired another ax. In addition, she said three students witnessed him on campus at separate times despite Residence Life allegedly telling the students involved that he had not been seen since late September.
Brooks and Faust said multiple students filed incident complaints to Residence Life and that they and others spoke to their resident assistant several times about Jason Vicari’s behavior.
“One of my roommates’ parents called the director of (Residence Life) and had spoken to him at some point because a lot of our parents started to get involved at that point, just because we couldn't handle this anymore by ourselves, and we shouldn't have had to,” Faust said.
She said that while their resident assistant escorted them by himself to and from the building, Residence Life informed them that they would not remove Jason Vicari from the apartments due to his conduct being a matter of mental health.
As a result, 11 students relocated themselves or attempted to do so, Faust and Brooks said. Faust said two of Jason Vicari’s roommates have moved permanently to different campuses.
Brooks said four students could not find new housing due to a lack of response from Residence Life.
The Daily Targum asked the University how Residence Life responded to allegations of Jason Vicari's threatening behavior, as well as the alleged confiscation of an ax, and whether the response was in accordance with University policy.
"Rutgers’ highest priority is the safety and well-being of our students, and all University policies and procedures were followed in responding to concerns from some students about Mr. (Jason) Vicari," Cramer said. "We have no further statement at this time given the Bergen County Prosecutor's Office ongoing investigation and University privacy policies."