PhD Candidate Brielle Savage Named ‘Woman of Excellence’
Reposted from SJ Magazine, May 2023
Women of Excellence, Honoring the passion, dedication and action of 6 remarkable South Jersey women
Criminal Trial Defense Investigator
Brielle Savage is haunted by her memories of witnessing the fatal shooting of a 10-year-old boy during a football game nearly 4 years ago. The fifth-grader, Micah Tennant, was sitting in the home team bleachers behind the intended victim of the 6 blaring gun shots. From the visitor side seating, where Brielle sat, she watched the chaos unfold, and became one of the thousand or so fans gathered under the Friday night lights who ended up scrambling in terror.
“I can vividly remember that exact moment down to the smell, the taste, what I was hearing and what I was seeing,” recalls Brielle. It affected her hearing for days and led to panic attacks. She now considers the tragedy her moment of clarity. It’s when the Voorhees mother of 2 young girls, who was already dedicated to advocacy work, knew she would focus her considerable energy on gun violence prevention.
Following the shooting, Brielle immediately went into what her friends call “Busy Brie” mode – comforting the teens, and praying and grieving alongside Micah’s family. But she knew there was so much more to do. As a criminal trial defense investigator in Camden, Brielle saw a different side of how gun violence rips apart communities. Too many of the teens she had grown close to a few years earlier when she was a youth advocate in the city – working with juveniles who had brushes with the law – were already dead. Others were in serious trouble.
“They were coming to me with adult-level homicide, murder and other violent crime charges,” says Brielle. “When they were teens, my hope and goal was to show them that there was more to their story. For them to come to me charged with these unbelievable crimes, there is such a disconnect. I knew I had to figure it out or we will keep going through this hamster wheel.”
At the time of Micah’s shooting, Brielle was enrolled in a criminal justice master’s degree program at Rutgers University. Getting involved in research, particularly on the impact of gun violence on Black and Brown youths, showed her a path forward. Recently admitted into Rutgers’ PhD criminal justice program, she plans to continue looking for solutions to end the cycle of violence.
“Even if a lot of kids try to play it off like gun violence doesn’t affect them, I know it does,” she says. “It’s why I have to keep so busy.”