JOHNSTON, R.I. (WPRI) — Dozens of Johnston little leaguers gathered Tuesday evening to write heartfelt messages to the family of a coach who was killed by his next-door neighbor last week.
Thomas “TJ” May and his 15-year-old daughter were both shot inside their Ligian Court home. May was found dead inside his garage, while his daughter was rushed to the hospital suffering from apparent gunshot wounds.
Their neighbor, identified as 52-year-old James Harrison, was shot dead by officers hours later following a chase and subsequent standoff on Plainfield Pike.
Harrison reportedly killed his 83-year-old mother inside their home before walking next door to shoot May and his daughter. Investigators believe the shooting stemmed from a neighborhood dispute.
The 44-year-old father of two was well known and respected in town. May had been involved with the Johnston Little League for years and served as a coach on his son’s team.
The town is still coming to terms with the tragedy, which is why the Johnston Little League encouraged players to make cards for the May family.
Construction paper and markers were strewn about a table set up in front of Johnston Memorial Park Tuesday. Little leaguers from May’s team and others stopped by to share words of encouragement.
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Adrien Constantini was one of them.
“Even though TJ isn’t here with us, we are here to help you get through tough times,” he wrote.
Michael DeAngelis wrote a special message to May’s son.
“Even though your dad isn’t here with us, his spirit is with you,” DeAngelis said. “Keep being strong.”
By the end of the evening, a box was filled to the brim with countless cards for the May family.
“He was a very nice man and he did not deserve what happened to him,” Gio Labbadia said.
Labbadia hopes his card to May’s son will give him the strength to eventually return to the field.
“We want him to come back, but he doesn’t have to if he doesn’t want to since I know something tragic happened and his dad used to be on this field a lot,” he said.
Johnston Little League President Joe Splendorio tells 12 News he wasn’t surprised by the overwhelming turnout.
“We are a family,” Splendorio said. “This is just the turnout that TJ deserves.”
“We know they’re hurting,” he continued. “We’re all hurting … but we’re there for them — whatever they need. They can rely on us to help them out.”
May’s daughter has since returned home from the hospital. Though she’s still recovering, Little League coach Michael Orsini tells 12 News everyone is rallying around her.
“She’s a strong kid,” he said. “We’re really proud of her.”
The Johnston Little League created a GoFundMe page to support the May family and ease their financial burden. So far, it’s raised more than $55,000.
May’s funeral will take place Thursday morning at St. Mary’s Church, according to his obituary.