Deadly New Jersey Birthday Party Shooting Was ‘Targeted Attack’: Officials

Officials said on Monday that the mass birthday party shooting at an outdoor birthday party in a southern New Jersey home, which left two people dead and 12 others wounded, was a deliberate attack.

A major search for unidentified gunmen continued Monday morning in Cumberland County, where a volley of gunfire erupted shortly before midnight on Saturday at a large home in Bridgeton, New Jersey, near Fairfield, causing partygoers to flee for their lives.

“This was not an act of indiscriminate brutality. This was a deliberate assault” At a press conference, New Jersey State Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal said.

One suspect has been convicted, according to Cumberland County prosecutor Jennifer Webb-McRae. Kevin K. Dawkins, 36, of Bridgeton, has been charged with unlawful possession of a firearm, unlawful possession of a high capacity ammunition magazine, and unlawful possession of a weapon for unlawful purposes, according to her. Dawkins is being held at the Cumberland County Jail, according to her.

Web-McRae refused to state if Dawkins is accused of firing a firearm during the Bridgeton birthday party shooting, citing the continuing investigation. At this time, it is unclear if the defendant has legal counsel.

Multiple arms and shell casings were discovered at the crime scene, according to New Jersey State Police Superintendent Col. Patrick J. Callahan, and further arrests are expected.

Kevin Elliott, 30, and Asia Hester, 25, both of Bridgeton, were the two people fatally wounded, according to Gurbir.

lgnews-Deadly-New-Jersey-Birthday1The 12 victims injured in the shooting ranged in age from 19 to 35, according to Webb-McRae, and some are now in critical condition in hospitals.

Hester’s uncle, who identified himself as a partygoer, told ABC station WPVI in Philadelphia that his niece was “a nice kid” and that he was “ply heartbroken.”

The mayhem that unfolded was captured on aerial footage by WPVI’s helicopter, with tents and chairs overturned and rubble-strewn around the ground.

According to Callahan, the motivation for the shooting is also being investigated. He urged anyone with knowledge about the incident to directly contact state investigators.

Officers were seen searching a cemetery and an adjacent wooded area across the street from the home where the shooting happened.

“Neither the state troopers who replied to the calls nor the paramedics who came to treat the injured knew if anyone was waiting in the woods to attack them,” Gov. Phil Murphy said at a news conference on Monday. “Thankfully, the firing had ceased by that point.”

State troopers were sent to investigate noise problems at another house party in Bridgeton, according to Callahan. He said the party ended at 11 p.m. Saturday, and some guests went to a nearby East Commerce Street birthday party, where the shooting occurred.

He estimated that several hundred people attended the birthday celebration, which city leaders described as a 1990s-themed affair.

A state trooper was in the area wrapping up a traffic stop around 11:30 p.m., Callahan said when he heard what sounded like explosions or gunshots. As 911 dispatchers continued to get several calls of a mass shooting in progress, he said the trooper and others hurried to the East Commerce Street house.

“I just started hearing what I figured were fireworks at first, but it turned out to be gunshots, and I heard nine in a row,” Rev. Michael Keene of the nearby Trinity AME Church told WPVI. “Why would you need a gun if you’re going to a party? Why do you need a gun if you’re there to have a fun time? That means you’re anticipating a fight with me.”

The shooting occurred amid a nationwide spike in gun crime, and it was at least the third time in 47 days that several people were shot at birthday parties.

lgnews-Deadly-New-Jersey-Birthday2Six adults were fatally shot at a birthday party in Colorado Springs, Colorado, on May 6 by a gunman who committed suicide, according to police. On April 5, a woman and her two daughters were fatally shot at a birthday party in Brooklyn, New York, with a 9-year-old girl, who hid in a room and called 911, informing a dispatcher that the slayings were committed by her father, who was later found dead after committing suicide.

Murphy called the Bridgeton shooting a “despicable and cowardly act.” The incident, he said, was a “microcosm of the magnitude of gun violence” that is occurring in New Jersey and around the world.

“We’ve reached a point where those gruesome scenes have become almost routine in our lives. It has become the standard “Murphy stated in his opinion. “There’s one thing we’ll never be able to normalize: senseless gun abuse.”

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