UAB engineering student killed in Birmingham shooting was ‘amazing young man’ | #College. | #Students

The shooting death of a 24-year-old UAB mechanical engineering senior has shocked his friends and family who are trying, without success, to make sense of the unimaginable crime.

Jesse Alan Marchant Birt died early Monday morning after the shooting outside of his apartment at TimberChase Apartments on Beacon Parkway East. He was a 2014 graduate of Auburn High School and the son of a Timothy Birt, a licensed family counselor, and Jamie Marchant, an author and English Literature instructor at Auburn University.

“We’re devastated,” Timothy said. “He was our only son and he had such a bright future.”

Jesse lived at TimberChase with his best friend Chassidie Hairston. “He was the nicest, most patient person I have ever met,” said Hairston, Jesse’s roommate of three years after the two met in an engineering class their freshman year of college. “He did everything with me. He was my gym buddy, he went shopping with me, we watched shows together. We cooked. We made candles in the kitchen. He was passionate about the environment and animals”

What led up to Jesse’s death remains a mystery to those who loved him most and who said he was the last person you would expect to become a homicide victim. “Jesse was into social justice and animals and environmental issues and was just an amazing young man,” his father said.

No updates have been released and no arrests made in Jesse’s killing. Police said South Precinct officers responded to a report of a shot fired in the complex about 1:30 a.m. Monday. Officers arrived to find Jesse wounded. He was taken UAB Hospital’s Trauma Center where he was pronounced dead at 2:36 a.m.

The investigation showed that sometime before his death, Jesse had called 911 to report someone with a gun in the parking lot. Authorities said it appeared the person with the gun was showing it to someone else.

Police initially said Jesse was believed to be walking his dog at the time. Family, however, said he didn’t own a dog but think he was taking care of a stray. He had placed a water bowl outside of his apartment door and they theorize he was either looking for the dog or trying to locate the dog’s owners when he was killed. Police said a black Labrador was seen in the complex after Jesse was killed.

Jesse’s roommate came home Monday morning to find Jesse gone, but his keys and car were still there. Hairston then tried to call him, but to no avail. She walked around the apartment complex and learned from neighbors there had been a shooting earlier and that someone had been injured. She started calling police and hospitals, and also called her mother who then notified the Birts.

Just two days before his murder, Jesse Alan Marchant Birt, pictured with best friend Chassidie Hairston, he sent this photo to his father of the double rainbow over Birmingham. It would be the last time his father would hear from him. (Contributed)

Timothy said they, too, began making phone calls to try to locate Jesse. About two hours later, he said, the Jefferson County Coroner’s Office called to notify them of Jesse’s murder.

It was not a call they ever expected to receive about their son, who was their pride and joy. At Auburn High School, Jesse was involved in Science Olympiad and other science competitions. He won a national award in the electric car competition.

Jesse went to UAB to study engineering and was especially passionate about thermodynamics, which deals with the relationship between heat and other forms of energy. He was a teaching assistant in the physical science his sophomore year at UAB and was only a few classes away from graduating.

He was in the process of looking for an internship and hoped to have a mechanical engineering career in thermodynamics and power generation or in robotics in the automotive industry. Father and son had a pizza dinner together just two days before his death and talked about his future.

“I told him I loved him, and I was proud of him,” Timothy said. “He was very happy.”

The last communication he had with his son was Saturday when Jesse sent him a photo of the double rainbow over Birmingham, along with the caption “All the way,” in reference to a 2010 viral video by YouTuber Paul Vasquez.

He also loved working on the family’s tree farm in Pennsylvania and went there several times a year to tend to the hardwoods. He loved to rock climb and to take part in Dungeons & Dragons, often serving as Dungeon Master. He and his mother shared their love for Dungeons & Dragons and often played together. “He loved his mom,” Timothy said. “They would talk on the phone for hours.”

Jesse was also a strong animal advocate and had just taken in three kittens who had been abandoned in the complex. Two of the kittens are special needs, and he had fallen in love with them. He was planning to keep the two disabled kittens and adopt out the third. His parents now have all three.

Though Jesse had never been in any kind of trouble, he was quick to help someone who was, and his family thinks that what led him to make that 911 call that morning. He did keep a gun in the apartment for protection and always had a pocketknife with him at all times. He did not have either in his possession when he was killed.

“I don’t know why that boy didn’t just call 911 and go back inside,” Timothy said.

He had once helped a neighbor who was being beaten during a domestic incident and it wasn’t uncommon for him to try to ease tensions if he saw a disagreement happening. “We’re guessing he was wandering around looking for the dog and we think he saw something and called police,” Timothy 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.”

“If he heard arguing, he would go outside and try to calm the situation down” his roommate, Hairston, said. “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.”

“He lived true to his values,” his father said. “If somebody shot him, he was trying to help somebody else to make sure they were OK.”

Timothy said there’s no way to make sense out of the murder. “It’s a senseless killing. My son wouldn’t hurt a flea,” he said.

Hairston said she, like Jesse’s family, is taking his death hard. “I was devastated. I am heartbroken and disgusted that someone could be so cowardly to do something and I will not stop until Jesse has justice,” she said. “That person has to be found and put behind bars. I’m not going to be satisfied until that happens. I’m angry every time I think about it.”

A celebration of Jesse’s life will be held Saturday in Auburn. Two memorial funds have been established in his memory, one at UAB and another, a GoFundMe, to help raise money for the Greater Birmingham Humane Society. Donations to the UAB School of Engineering Fund can be made in the name of the Jesse Birt Memorial Fund, UAB Gift Records, 720 2nd Ave. South, AB 1230, Birmingham, Alabama 38294 or online at go.uab.edu/JesseBirtMemorialFund. The GoFundMe can be found here.

The family is asking anyone with information in Jesse’s slaying to please come forward. “My boy was a good man, a peaceful man,” Timothy said. “He cared deeply about people.”

“He will be missed,” he said. “The world is not a better place without this man in it.”

Anyone with information is asked to call Birmingham homicide detectives at 205-254-1764 or Crime Stoppers at 205-254-7777. Tipsters to Crime Stoppers can remain anonymous and are eligible for a cash reward if their tip leads to an arrest and conviction.


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