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AmeriCorps Member Shot Dead in New Orleans

By Patrick Sullivan - April 3, 2013

An 18-year-old AmeriCorps member was murdered in New Orleans, La. Joseph Massenburg was shot at the corner of Eagle and Birch streets and was pronounced dead a short time after 11pm on Monday.

Massenburg, of Matteson, Ill., was a member of AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC). He and his team had been working at Green Light New Orleans (GLNO), which works to promote energy efficiency throughout New Orleans. It has an office in the Leonidas neighborhood, just six blocks from the corner on which Massenburg died. NCCC members are housed close to where they work.

The New Orleans Police Department did not have a motive or suspects for the murder. Officer Frank Robertson, III, with the NOPD Public Affairs Division, could not answer questions about a motive or a murder weapon saying only, “We are actively investigating this case. We do have some leads that we are working and hopefully we will have a suspect soon.”

According to data from the City of New Orleans’ website, in 2012 the NOPD fielded almost 30,000 calls for service in the 70118 ZIP code, of which Leonidas is a small part. Of those calls, 14 were for homicide by shooting.

“This young man was serving his country, making a difference through service to others,” said Kate Raftery, AmeriCorps NCCC director via a statement. “His death is a tragic loss for his family, his friends, and our program. The safety of our members is a top priority. We work closely with local partners to provide a safe environment for all of our members in which to serve and live.”

This is the first homicide since NCCC was founded in 1993, according to a source familiar with the program.

GLNO released statement via its website: “It is an unacceptable tragedy that violence has taken the life of this young man. Our thoughts and prayers are with the family and friends of Joseph Massenburg.” GLNO has been an AmeriCorps NCCC project sponsor since 2008, and 17 NCCC teams have worked with the nonprofit.

GLNO Executive Director Andreas Hoffman declined to comment, except to say that Massenburg was “a wonderful person.” He stressed that his organization would not be able to carry out its work without the help of NCCC volunteers, and that the “NCCC rebuilding efforts in New Orleans have been so incredible.”

Massenburg had been in New Orleans for less than a month, having arrived on March 12. AmeriCorps NCCC is a long-term, direct service program for youth aged 18 to 24. Massenburg’s team was based in Vicksburg, Miss., one of five NCCC campuses around the country. This was Massenburg’s team’s first project. The rest of the 10-person team has returned to the Vicksburg campus for counseling, said a source close to the situation.

Anyone with information about this crime should call the New Orleans Police Department homicide unit at 504-658-5300 or Crimestoppers, 877-903-7867.

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