Murdered Trenton man broke into suspect’s car before being killed: Prosecutors

Jermaine Johnson

Jermaine Johnson

One hour before he was killed in a gun battle on the hardscrabble streets of Trenton, Elvin Kimble and another person burglarized the vehicle of a man who is charged in his murder, prosecutors said.

When 40-year-old Jermaine Johnson, of Ewing, gave chase, Kimble fired in his direction, Assistant Prosecutor Tim Ward said.

This was the story provided to investigators by someone who was apparently with Kimble in the hours before his death.

Ward described the individual as a witness and would not say whether it was the person who helped Kimble burglarize Johnson’s van. Ward also refused to say if the
individual has been charged.

Prosecutors revealed at a bail hearing Tuesday that Johnson, angered over the break-in and being shot at, recruited individuals, including 33-year-old Gary Spears
of Trenton, to help him retaliate against Kimble.

A gun battle ensued near the intersection of Rusling and Chestnut, and Kimble was struck in the back. Prosecutors believe Spears fired the fatal shot.

Kimble retreated to Division Street, where he collapsed behind a van — his tragic final resting spot.

Police had been called Nov. 24. to the scene on a report of gunfire shortly after 12:30 a.m. and discovered numerous spent shell casings but no sign of Kimble — a
critical misstep that sealed the 19-year-old’s fate.

Kimble, wearing a ski mask and with a gun still in his hand, was found by police slumped over near a van on the 700 block of Division Street around 6:15 a.m.

Elvin Kimble

Elvin Kimble

Ward said Spears was captured by surveillance footage standing next to Johnson and firing toward Kimble.

Edward Heyburn, Johnson’s attorney, said there is no evidence on the tape his client opened fire, suggesting he was “caught up in the crossfire.”

Prosecutors did not accuse Johnson of firing at Kimble. But like his codefendant, he is charged with weapons offenses.

“He wasn’t involved in a shootout,” Heyburn said. “He just happened to be present.”

Each suspect was ordered held on $1 million bail following hearings before Superior Court Judge Timothy Lydon, in part because of their past scrapes with the law.

Heyburn conceded his client has a “troubled past,” but said he has “paid his debts to society” following stints in prison on convictions for drugs, guns, witness tampering and theft.

Spears, the accused triggerman, also has numerous drug convictions and was on probation for a contempt conviction at the time of Kimble’s murder, prosecutors said.

Spears’ attorney, Laura Yaede, questioned the quality and accuracy of surveillance footage prosecutors said captured her client opening fire on Kimble.

Ward said his office has another dagger for evidence: The defendant acknowledged shooting at Kimble and pointed himself out on film.

The tape, Ward said, “is clear enough that Mr. Spears identified himself.”

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