NEW YORK -- About 300 students, faculty and friends gathered on the football field behind Harry S. Truman High School Wednesday morning to pay tribute to star running back Isayah Muller, who was fatally stabbed during an altercation in a Bronx parking lot Tuesday, just hours after leaving his high school graduation.
The incident occurred in a lot on 198th Street and Jerome Avenue near Lehman College in the Bronx, according to New York Police Department deputy commissioner Paul J. Browne.
Muller, an electrifying tailback who racked up 295 yards to lead the Mustangs to the PSAL championship title against Beach Channel in November, died after being stabbed twice, in the side and in his chest, by a parking attendant, according to police.
Muller's father, 40-year-old Andre Muller, was charged with assaulting one of the parking attendants at the lot. He is accused of hitting an attendant with a shovel; the resulting wound required 10 stitches, prosecutors said. Andre Muller entered a not guilty plea Wednesday afternoon.
Truman High's graduation ceremony had been held Tuesday afternoon at Lehman College. The family left the parking lot when Isayah's father noticed that a package containing cologne, a gift for his son, was missing from the car, according to the New York Daily News. The group returned to the lot and a fight broke out.
"What a tragedy. (Andre) Muller was the aggressor," NYPD commissioner Ray Kelly said during an interview Wednesday with "Good Day New York." "He struck one of the attendants, whom I believe is still in the hospital. He assaulted the attendant. He picked up a shovel and struck the attendant. Another attendant had a shank. ... The young man also participated in the assault and was stabbed."
After Isayah Muller was stabbed, Andre Muller and Isayah's mother, Rosa, as well as Isayah's girlfriend drove to a clinic about 10 blocks away. The 19-year-old was taken to St. Barnabas Hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 5:56 p.m. ET.
The parking attendants were brought in for questioning Tuesday, according to multiple media reports, but charges were not immediately filed.
Relatives of the Mullers were incredulous that Andre Muller would be charged, saying that the attendants pulled knives on the unarmed pair, according to the Daily News.
Isayah's grandfather, Juan Ortiz, told WPIX-11 News that Andre Muller had grabbed a nearby shovel in self-defense.
But the memorial focused on stories of Isayah Muller's life. Truman coach John-James Shepherd and many of the players wore their championship rings to school.
"He wasn't just a phenomenal football player, I mean, he was awesome," Shepherd said. "Best running back I've ever coached. I've been coaching since '99. I played college ball (at Cortland State) and his senior year here, he could have started on my college team."
Shepherd added later: "I have no doubt in my mind that two years from now he would have been playing in front of 75,000 people somewhere. Out of all of the players I've ever coached, he was the only one who really had a chance to make it that far."
Once news of Muller's death spread Tuesday night, some teammates and friends, including quarterbacks Xavier Hamilton and Jose Taveras, organized a vigil through Facebook. Most of the graduated seniors at Truman went to school to pick up their diplomas, then went to the football field to remember a friend. Muller, 5-foot-10 and 180 pounds, was headed to Nassau Community College in the fall.
"Half of my highlight film is because of him," said Hamilton, who heard the news while he was at a movie theater Tuesday night.
"It sunk in right away," Hamilton said. "I know the kind of person that he is. I'm sure he stuck up for his family members in that situation. It's a shame it had to go like that, but that's the way that Isayah would go out."
Taveras, who stayed with Muller's family late into the night after the incident, called Muller a brother and a mentor.
"Right now I'm just praying, praying for his family and thanking him for everything he gave me," Taveras said.
Christopher Hunt is a regular contributor to ESPNNewYork.com. Information from ESPNNewYork.com's Matt Ehalt and Robert Abruzzese was used in this report.