Two shot, one killed in Tuesday night shooting
At least seven crime scene evidence placards littered the sidewalk signifying that something terrible happened.
A late night Tuesday shooting injured one man and killed a former city boxer.
Steven Quinton Brannon, 46, was shot in the throat, according to a family member who spoke to The Trentonian. He left behind two daughters and four grandchildren.
Police were dispatched to the 200 block of East Hanover Street to investigate reports of gunfire around 10 p.m. Tuesday. When they arrived on-scene, police found two people suffering from gunshot wounds.
Police say a 58-year-old man was shot in the hip and groin area, but they would not confirm exactly where Brannon was struck. The men were both taken to Capital Health Regional Medical center, where Brannon was pronounced dead a short time later.
That block of East Hanover Street is a hotspot for criminal activity. Police did not disclose a motive for the killing, but Brannon’s family said they would not be surprised if the incident involved drugs.
“Once he smoked crack, he was a different person,” his brother Bryant Brannon said.
According to his family, during the 1980s, Steven was an amatuer boxer, but he never pursued a professional career because he got caught up in the street life.
“He could’ve been a great professional fighter,” Bryant, who once fought Roy Jones Jr., said. “But he was never able to completely come up out of the street.”
His family said Steven had been in and out of jail for all of his adult life and may have spent more time incarcerated than he spent in society. Steven was released from jail about four months ago, his family said, and about two weeks after his release, he decided to be baptized.
“He was a very religious person,” Bryant said. “He was a strong believer, but he just didn’t have the faith to turn his life around. He loved the Lord and he always talked about a change.”
Steven’s family doesn’t know exactly why he was on East Hanover Street Tuesday night, but they say it was one of his regular hangout spots.
A man who works on that block said the neighborhood has changed dramatically from the time it used to be called “lawyers row.”
“When I was a boy, there was nothing down here but professional people,” Leroy Nevius said Wednesday morning. “It was beautiful, but over time things changed. A lot of the blame for the deterioration of the neighborhood has to do with absentee landlords. They rent the place out and only come back once a month to pick up that rent money.”
On Wednesday morning as police guarded the crime scene, broken down cardboard boxes covered various portions of the street. Beer bottles, cigar wrappers, plastic bottles, kitchen trash and other debris also littered the sidewalk and street. There was also a couch in the middle of the sidewalk.
“This is about one block away from City Hall,” Nevius said. “If an (economic) developer was to come through and make a turn down Hanover instead of State Street, they might change their mind. It behooves the city to clean up the area to make it look prosperous or at least clean.”
North Ward Councilwoman Marge Caldwell-Wilson said she has been trying to turn that neighborhood around and develop it into an “Avenue of the Arts.” Most of the buildings in the 200 block of East Hanover Street are boarded up and covered by street murals. The councilwoman would like to see artists from the Tri-state area choose Trenton as a place to live and work.
“When the artists were in Gallery 219 and those apartments were rented to artists, they kept that place looking pretty good,” Caldwell-Wilson said. “I have to contact the Trenton Downtown Association and see what they’re going to do about that (trash).”
The councilwoman said the regular presence of artists on that block deterred some of the criminal activity because there were always crowds of people bringing attention to the area. She’s now trying to establish a civic association in that part of town to bring the community together to improve the neighborhood.
SAGE Coalition artist Will “Kasso” Condry, who painted many of the murals on that block, said the neighborhood has changed a lot since the organization moved out of Gallery 219. SAGE moved out of the building, Condry said, after someone broke in and stole pipes out of the basement. The building is now under repair.
“SAGE didn’t completely stop (criminal activity) on the block, but it slowed down and evolved to the point where a lot of times you wouldn’t even see (street hustlers) because we were bringing too much attention to that block,” Condry said. “If someone was out there selling dope, they didn’t want that type of attention, so they went somewhere else. Even the hardest gangster respected what we did because we didn’t interfere with their business. Art is like a repellent of negativity.”
Nevius said there needs to be more police patrols in the area because he’s seen city workers drive through the block after work to score drugs.
“The people in the suburbs sit back and complain about the area, but they contribute to it being what it is,” Nevius said. “Around 5 p.m. you can come through here and see the Mercedes and the BMWs. They stop and pick up their recreational drugs and go home. But if there’s no market for a product, the store will close down.”
No arrests have been made in connection with Brannon’s death and police have not released a suspect description.
The case is being investigated by the Mercer County Homicide Task Force. Anyone with information about the killing is asked to call (609) 989-6406. Or use the Trenton police confidential tip line at (609) 989-3663. Tipsters may also call the Trenton Crime Stoppers tipline at (609) 278-8477. Those wishing to text a tip can send a message labeled TCSTIPS to Trenton Crime Stoppers at 274637.