Man murdered in Trenton Sunday
A man was shot and killed Sunday, marking the third murder to occur in the capital city over the weekend.
The 51-year-old victim was shot in the head outside a store located in the 900 block of Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard about 20 minutes before noon. He was later pronounced dead at the hospital.
Residents on the block said they were inside their homes at the time of the shooting, and no one could provide details of what happened just prior to the incident. But one man said the store attracts a lot of foot traffic, which compounds with the open-air drug activity that’s rampant on MLK.
“I’ve lived in the neighborhood all my life and the Boulevard has a drug problem,” a man who asked to remain anonymous said.
Police say the MLK shooting appears to be an isolated incident not connected to the shootings in South Trenton that claimed two lives on Friday night and Saturday morning.
“At this point, it appears the victim was involved in a confrontation with another individual who was inside a vehicle,” Lt. Stephen Varn said about the Sunday murder. “Shots were fired from the vehicle and the suspect drove away.”
Trenton Police Director Ernest Parrey Jr. said Sunday that “it’s very disappointing” to learn about another capital city homicide less than 24 hours after community leaders spoke about peace in the very same neighborhood where the murder occurred.
“We’re putting in double-time working on this violent crime strategy,” Parrey said. “We’re working with our law enforcement partners and the faith-based community as we did yesterday. Now we have a homicide right in one of the areas where we were pleading to the public. So, the question now becomes: is the public going to answer the call? The police department and the mayor can’t do this alone. The community knows who did this. Are they willing to step up and say ‘We’re not going to have this in our neighborhood; we’re not going to subject our children to this?’”
One of the concerns community activists and residents speak about most often is the lack of police walking in Trenton’s high-crime neighborhoods. Residents wonder why state police and sheriff’s officers don’t focus on the areas near schools and downtown while TPD officers walk beats in the high-crime neighborhoods such as MLK, Lamberton Street, Stuyvesant Avenue, Oakland and Hoffman, Prospect Village and the North 25 Housing complex.
“We don’t publicly discuss deployment efforts, but I can tell you we work hand-in-hand with New Jersey State Police,” Parrey said. “We have areas in the city where we conduct strategic patrols. Unfortunately, an incident like this where someone wanders out of their home with malice in their heart and takes a life is a crime that’s not suppressible.”
The department hired two classes of recruits last year, but anywhere from 10 to 20 officers could retire within the next two years. The 257 officers currently on the force is much lower than the number of cops employed prior to the 2011 layoffs, which presents a number of challenges to daily crime suppression.
“I’m fighting to get additional police on the ground,” Mayor Eric Jackson said. “I’m fighting with the state’s Department of Community Affairs to allow us to add additional police to our force and it’s a struggle. Earlier this year when Governor Christie talked about using additional resources for police efforts, he talked specifically about the transit hub and expanding their role. Right now we’re having conversations about how we expand that out even further.”
However, Jackson said, it’s important to realize that violence in the capital city is not the result of police slacking on the job, but rather a testament to today’s society.
“This violence is not due to a lack of police doing their jobs,” Jackson said. “We have to get the guns off the street. That’s what I believe is the ultimate answer. We’ve sorta lost our moral compass, so guns seem to be the easiest resolve. There’s no value on life anymore. Young people are using guns to kill people for petty street beefs. Then someone retaliates and kills them. We’re destroying lives in our city.”
On Saturday, hours after two men were killed in the same South Trenton neighborhood, Jackson, Parrey and other members of the community participated in a morning prayer walk followed by a “Ride for Peace,” where they stressed the importance of residents helping police prevent violent crime.
Jackson said residents of Lamberton Street and other high-crime neighborhoods were “happy to see” law enforcement and government officials touring their blocks Saturday. But while additional boots on the ground remains a top priority, Jackson said, residents must commit to helping police combat crime.
“I urge communities to help protect themselves, but at the same time I don’t want people to be afraid to come out of their houses,” Jackson said. “We have to work together as a community to solve these problems. One shooting affects everyone in this town, and it’s destroying families and the quality of life. We have to work together to fight this epidemic.”
So far this year, 19 people have been killed in Trenton, which includes the hit-and-run death of Lea Pringle.
The deadly weekend began with the murder of 43-year-old Anthony Flowers, who was gunned down on Lamberton Street Friday night. Early Saturday morning, 40-year-old Shawn Harrell was murdered near the intersection of Power and Bridge streets.
And the violence continued through Sunday evening when someone fired a plethora of gunshots using an AK-47 on Second Street. No injuries were reported from that shooting.
The Mercer County Homicide Task Force is investigating all three murders. No arrests have been made at this time. Anyone with information about the slayings is asked to call (609) 989-6406. Or call the Trenton Police Confidential Tip Line at (609) 989-3663.