ROBBINSVILLE, NJ -- Jim and Betty O’Donnell had that sinking feeling late on October 1 when their son Brian did not get home from work at his normal time, the instinct that something was wrong sank in.
Even at 32 years old Brian, Jim and Betty's oldest child, would always call home around 11:00 p.m. when he was leaving work at Mecho Shades in Edison, just to let them know he was starting his 45-minute commute home. But that Thursday night his Dad knew something was wrong when Brian wasn’t home by 1:30 am, so he woke Betty. Sure Brian was fast asleep she was surprised to find his bed empty.
By 2:00am, and with no word from Brian, the O’Donnell’s called the Robbinsville Police Department. Three officers came to their home and began calling the police departments along Brian’s commute route home.
When the officers called the New Brunswick Police Department, the O’Donnell’s overheard the radio the worst news any parent could hear. Their officers had responded to a three-car accident with one fatality – their son, Brian.
The local officers, Betty said, immediately offered the now grieving parents compassion. Betty is thankful for the Robbinsville Police Officers who stayed with them and “comforted us in any way that they could.”
In the days since Brian’s passing, the O’Donnell family has received an outpouring of support from the community. And especially the community of close friends at Greg’s Games in Hamilton where they shared their passion for gaming and Brian created the Warhammer Fight Club eight years ago and had continued to grow.
Betty said that she has been surprised to learn in recent days about “the beautiful community of people my son brought together as a family.” She said the gaming community “helped him through and provided a needed place to belong.”
Kyle Booth, manager at Greg’s Games and a close friend of Brian’s, said that he and others were shocked that “this could happen to such a kind, inviting, and genuine person.”
“We are a group of teachers, military members, nurses, and others of all different walks of life that come to the store to escape in a safe space,” said Booth who helped put together a memorial for Brian at the store for club members to come together and mourn as a family does.
The club will continue in Brian's honor, Booth said.
Betty feels that Brian’s family and friends are living the nightmare that no parent should have to face because of the actions of one man who allegedly chose to drive drunk and under the influence of a controlled substance.
In connection with the accident, the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s office has charged Arsalan Gul, 21, of Edison, with one count of second-degree vehicular homicide, one count of third-degree hindering apprehension, and one count of driving while intoxicated.
Betty says “this individual got in a weapon and drove. He then ran away and ditched drugs. And my son was already dead.”
“This person took a big part of our hearts. As a family, one flavor of us is stripped away,” said O’Donnell. “No one should have the right to take a life that had a lot more living to do.”
The family wants justice for Brian who “had a life well-lived although unfinished” and is hopeful that the legal process will proceed.
The O’Donnell family is working on moving forward as their younger son Hugh will be getting his military orders in May. They also will be working to create a foundation in Brian’s memory to help individuals participate in gaming clubs that brought much joy to his life.
Brian’s friends at Greg’s Games continue to tell stories about his when they come together and will work with the O’Donnell family on a foundation when they are ready.
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