Drexel alumnus on trial for fatal off-campus shooting | The Triangle

Drexel alumnus on trial for fatal off-campus shooting

Photograph courtesy of Philadelphia Police

Last November, Drexel University graduate Joseph Howanski shot and killed a man on Lancaster Avenue. Arrested for murder, Howanski said the shooting was in self-defense. His trial will begin Oct. 15.

The incident was captured by surveillance video Nov. 29, at 11:40 p.m. The deceased Merlos Mukaj, was purportedly arguing with his girlfriend, a Drexel student at the time, when Howanski and a group of friends passed by. After a few minutes, Howanski returned and remained a few feet away from the couple. He reportedly knew neither one of the couple.

Mukaj then stepped away from his girlfriend, which is when Howanski attempted to approach. Mukaj then turned back, pushed Howanski into the street and tried to hit him in the head. This is when Howanski pulled out a gun and shot Mukaj three times in the chest. Mukaj was taken to Penn Presbyterian Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead. Howanski was detained by Drexel police, and admitted to the shooting. He was charged with several crimes, including first-degree murder, possession of an instrument of crime and reckless endangerment.

He was initially denied bail and was held in Philadelphia’s Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility. Assistant District Attorney Ed Jaramillo withdrew the charge of first-degree murder Aug. 15 and Howanski posted bail. He remains charged with murder of the third degree; the legal difference is that the killing need not be “willful, deliberate and premeditated.” Howanski is being represented by defense attorney Fortunato Perri Jr., who claims that Howanski was provoked into violence when Mukaj pushed him into the street and tried to hit him in the head. Howanski was also legally allowed to carry a handgun because he had a license to carry.  The trial will be being presided over by Barbara McDermott.

At Drexel, Howanski was Business Manager for The Triangle and served on the Student Activity Fee Allocation Committee. He graduated from the Lebow College of Business in 2017.