Former N.J. college student shot to death in Philly ID’d; man charged with murder

A 24-year-old Philadelphia man who intervened in an argument between a couple near Drexel University Tuesday night has been charged with killing the boyfriend, who had been enrolled as a student at a New Jersey college.

Merlos Mukaj, 21, was shot three times in the chest around 11:30 p.m., Philadelphia police said. Mukaj died minutes later after being brought to Penn Presbyterian Medical Center. He had attended Rowan College at Gloucester County, and police said he was recently living in Philadelphia.

“The Rowan College at Gloucester County community is saddened to learn about the tragic death of one of our former students, Merlos Mukaj,” the school’s President Francis Keating said in a statement emailed to NJ Advance Media ” Our sincere sympathy and prayers go out to Merlos’ family and friends during their time of grief.”

Mukaj, who studied computer science, last attended the college in 2016, a spokeswoman said. 

Late Wednesday, police charged Joseph Howanski with murder.

Mukaj’s girlfriend is a 22-year-old Drexel student. Howanski is a Drexel graduate but he didn’t know the woman or Mukaj, according to

The shooting took place on the 3500 block of Lancaster Avenue, in the shadow of the Drexel’s campus. 

Witnesses told the television station Mukaj started to walk away after the verbal altercation with his girlfriend. Howanski confronted him and the two men exchanged words and shoves before shots were fired. 

Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to clarify that Mukaj was a former student of Rowan College at Gloucester County and was last enrolled in 2016.

Jeff Goldman may be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @JeffSGoldman. Find on Facebook.