Videos capture ‘chaos’ outside of Art All Night before and after shootout
TRENTON >> Videos obtained by The Trentonian show a police presence of at least six officers, one with a canine, trying to disperse a rowdy crowd about 90 minutes before at least three suspects engaged in a wild firefight at the Art All Night festival.
More footage reviewed by the newspaper provides the first glimpse into the gruesome scene that unfolded inside the warehouse when gunfire erupted around 2:45 Sunday morning, injuring at least 22 people, including a 13-year-old.
The shocking videos, provided by a man who was there with his wife, captured the “chaos” leading up to the shooting and the carnage inside the building moments after the shootout.
The man agreed to be interviewed on the condition he was identified only by his street name, “Pito.”
Pito also allowed The Trentonian to watch three clips he filmed on the condition it would not publish them out of respect for the alleged gunmen’s families.
Pito, who knew the alleged shooters, identified one of the men bleeding on the ground next to a pool of blood inside the warehouse as Amir Armstrong, one of the suspected gunmen.
Armstrong is seen bleeding from the side of his head after suffering an apparent head shot, information that was corroborated by multiple sources.
Others lay shot on the floor of the warehouse as people rushed over to help.
The videos also captured some of the brewing beefs that broke out prior to the shooting.
Around 1 a.m., the video showed cops rushing over to intervene when people squared up outside of the warehouse raising their hands like they were about to fight.
At least six Trenton Police officers and a police dog swept through the crowd, telling people to leave or head inside the Roebling Wire Works building, according to the video.
People threw up apparent Blood gang signs and shouted at the camera. Another man raised a trigger finger, pretending to shoot at the camera, a haunting image of what was to come.
Lauren Otis, the executive director of Artworks — the nonprofit that produced the event — told people walking into the building the festival was being shut down.
“Anyone who’s coming in now, we’re closing down,” he said, according to the video.
People ignored him and continued to pour into the warehouse, the video shows.
Pito asked the executive director why the festival was being shut down.
“It’s chaos,” Otis responded.
Event organizers have faced questions about their decision to hire only four overtime Trenton cops to staff an event that has attracted tens of thousands of people over the years. About 1,000 people were still at the festival when the gunfire erupted,
Otis released a statement in response to Trentonian inquiries saying the overtime cops were part of a heavier police presence that followed after cops learned from Hamilton teacher Danielle Grady’s Facebook post Saturday morning there may be a shootout.
Otis said officers from other departments and a 14-member security detail were at the event as part of a “comprehensive” security plan approved by city officials.
The police presence included a total of eight officers from Trenton Police and the Mercer County Sheriff’s Office, along with the security detail. It was unclear if members of the security detail were armed.
The security presence still wasn’t enough, as officers struggled to get the rowdy crowd under control nearly two hours before the shootout.
A second clip obtained by The Trentonian captured the moment when a rapid succession of gunshots ripped through the building, sending people darting for the doors.
Pito continued filming as he ran through the warehouse searching for his wife.
He came upon a crowd gathered around Armstrong, who was wearing a blue jacket, white T-shirt, dark jeans and red sneakers with a red hat next to body.
As people tried to render aid, Pito shouted at Armstrong, “Stay with us, bro.”
At some point, Armstrong flopped on his side.
Armstrong remains hospitalized in critical condition, and authorities haven’t provided an update on his status.
He and another man, Davone White, have been charged with weapons offenses in connection with the shootout, while a third suspect, Tahaij Wells, was shot and killed by the cops.
Pito said he saw Wells and Armstrong standing with two men he didn’t recognize inside the building minutes before the shootout.
Everything seemed fine, and no one was beefing, Pito said. He recalled Wells had a big smile on his face as they shook hands and talked before he walked off.
“That’s what I don’t understand,” Pito said. “I’m flipping my lid. How the f—k did [this happen]?”
Pito said he knew Wells, who went by N.O.R.E on the streets, for about 15 years before Sunday’s fatal firefight.
They met in the joint around 2003. Wells was in on the alleged gangland slay of Robert McNair, a fellow Bloods gangster.
Wells was 17 at the time he was arrested and spent more than 15 years incarcerated, most of that time in solitary confinement at Trenton state prison, after he admitted to killing McNair.
The men were housed in A-Pod of the Mercer County jail when they met, while Pito said he was locked up on a cocaine charge.
“He was one of the funniest guys you ever met,” Pito said. “You wanted him around you.”
Pito, who said he has done more than 12 years of hard time, called Wells “little Pachanga” because he resembled a character from the crime movie “Carlito’s Way.”
Wells was released from prison in February. And Pito said he saw his former jail mate on the outside about three weeks ago, outside a Trenton barber shop. They hugged and talked.
They saw each other again shortly before the shootout, Pito said.
Everything seemed normal, Pito said, then came the gunshots.
He teared up re-watching the bloody clips inside Trentonian headquarters.
Pito tried sending Wells a Facebook message hours after the shootout but didn’t hear back. A friend later told him Wells had been killed by the police during the melee.
“N–as losin’ they lives over nothing, bro,” Pito said. “He wasn’t a bad kid. He never experienced life. When you incarcerate the mind, you’re always going to be stuck. It’s not fun. Coming home, you ain’t got sh-t. Nobody tries to help you. I don’t judge him for what he had done in his past. He had a good heart. He did one big justice for me. I will always love the kid for that.”