Jose Juan Melendez Jr. was an Army specialist stationed at Fort Bragg in 2017 who was shot to death by his car on November 29. His death has left his family devastated and searching for answers.
Although his death occurred nearly three years ago, there is renewed interest in the case because of the recent attention paid to soldiers being murdered or dying under suspicious circumstances.
Enrique Roman-Martinez disappeared on May 22 and his body was discovered May 29, Kayli Jefferson-Henkel was found dead in her home in what the coroner ruled a suicide (although the family disputes that) and Vanessa Guillen was murdered at Fort Hood. All of the soldiers were either Black or Latino.
Melendez Was Thoughtful & Artistic As A Child
Melendez’s sister, Mara Melendez Doens, told Heavy that her brother was, “a good son, brother and soldier,” who came full circle; he was born in Fort Bragg, South Carolina. Growing up, she described him as thoughtful, caring and artistic.
It was just us. My brother and I are only 13 months apart. So we were very close. My brother always had a caring heart, he was funny and always was involved in reading and drawing.
Born in Fort Bragg, North Carolina, he would eventually return there as an army specialist after joining the service in 2013. Before that, he had attended Campbell University and majored in Graphic Design in 2008.
Melendez Had Been Deployed Once
Melendez attended basic combat training at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, Military Times reported. He served in the 82nd Airborne Division before he was deployed to Iraq and Kuwait for Operation Inherent Resolve.
Military Times reported that he was a nodal network systems operator for the 528th Sustainment Brigade. Nodal network systems operators are supposed to set up and maintain communication lines, from radios to “ancillary” equipment, according to the military.
His sister told Heavy that Melendez was happy to be a soldier and a natural helper. “You could tell how happy he was as a person, always smiling. He was there for everyone no matter what. Even the night before he died he went to Raleigh to be a designated driver for two friends who reside in Raleigh.”
Not Much Is Known About Melendez’s Killer
— Stars and Stripes (@starsandstripes) December 22, 2018
According to what Raleigh Police told local TV news station ABC-11, Melendez was walking to his vehicle along the 2200 block of Raven Road at 3:30 a.m. when he was shot in the jaw. He was found in the parking lot by police and taken to WakeMed, but never recovered from his injuries.
Military Times reported that news of the gunfire came from a woman by the scene who told police that she saw a man, “I saw somebody running. Shots were fired. He was running towards the woods.”
He was supposed to return to his scheduled duties on the day he was shot. Little else is known about a potential motive for his murder or potential suspects. However, the governor offered a $5,000 reward and the family has offered a $15,000 reward for any information about his death, Military Times reported.
Melendez’s Death Was Incredibly Hard On the Family
His sister told Heavy that his death was incredibly difficult for her and their family, leading them to seek counseling and help from TAPS, or the tragedy assistance program for survivors, which provides care and resources to military families who lose a loved one, regardless of how they died. “They have helped us through our grief journey,” she said of TAPS.
She said she and her family are motivated to find justice for him.
“My family and I try to stay strong and hold on to faith and keep pushing his story and case out there,” she said. “It’s pretty much our sole mission, finding justice for him!” She said that she’s also hoping the military and Raleigh Police Department run forensics on any additional evidence from the scene that hasn’t been ran.
I’ll never move on from my brother’s death, but what I’ve learned in this time, is how to cope with it, move forward and be stronger for myself, my family and friends as well as to never give up on my faith and hope that one day justice will be served!
Someone out there knows who did this. We’re not going to stop advocating and seeking justice for my brother Spc Jose Melendez Jr. The killer cut my brothers life short. Jose had hopes and aspirations of a long term career in the army. He served his country overseas in Iraq/Kuwait to come back home and murdered 2 years later. Maybe the killer did it by mistake or maybe they knew him? But my family and I will not stop till we find out who did it and why.