Man killed in Trenton Saturday morning
A man enrolled in the military who has roots in the capital city died by gunfire in the East Ward Saturday morning, becoming the latest victim to be killed from ongoing gun violence this summer.
Police responded to Morris and Commonwealth avenues around 8 a.m. after someone reported an unresponsive male inside a vehicle near that intersection. Cops found the car’s door wide open with 34-year-old Eric Rue inside, suffering from multiple gunshot wounds to his body.
Emergency personnel rushed Rue to Saint Francis Medical Center, where he died a short time later, according to the Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office.
Rue, who may have recently moved to Bensalem, Pa., is the seventh person since June to be killed in the capital city. And so far this year, Trenton has experienced 16 killings, which includes three vehicular homicides and the death of Tahaij Wells, who was killed by police during an early morning shootout at a 24-hour arts festival.
Rue may have a last known address in Bensalem, according to the prosecutor’s office, but his family has lived in the Trenton area for a long time. Sources say Rue regularly hangs out in local bars, and that it’s “not unusual” for him to be in Trenton early in the morning on a weekend.
Rue’s Facebook profile says he was employed as an Automated Logistical Specialist in the United States Army. It’s unclear whether he served as active duty, a reservist, or in the Army National Guard. Attempts to reach his family were unsuccessful. People who knew him described Rue as a “workaholic” who was “not a bad kid.”
“S**t just broke my heart!!! Over 20years of friendship is just gone!!! RIP Eric Rue…I can’t even believe s**t man!!! Love You Bro,” Tiron James wrote on social media.
“Omg he was jus at the bar lastnight RIP,” Checkmate Cee wrote online.
“Humble guy gone to soon, I know his twin sister is having a hard time right now,” Keith Proctor added on Facebook.
Police are seeking to determine whether Saturday’s homicide was targeted or a random act of violence, according to Trenton Mayor Reed Gusciora who has been in touch with law enforcement regarding the murder ever since it happened.
“It is a setback,” Gusciora said of the capital city’s latest bloodshed, “because as we move Trenton ahead, we want to attract more people to come in and make sure they can safely enjoy the city.”
Gusciora acknowledged the city’s ongoing gun violence but suggested it is part of a larger trend.
“It seems to be a spike in violence this summer in Chicago, Baltimore, D.C. and other urban areas of the country and Trenton is not immune to that,” he said Saturday afternoon. “But nevertheless, we have to step up our police patrol.”
The mayor’s vision for combating violence is to increase the size of the Trenton Police force, in order to place more officers on the streets walking a beat and encouraging a sense of community where the public is willing to band together and let the cops know if someone is dealing drugs or illegally packing heat.
“People should band together to let police know if there is drug dealing or people carrying handguns, especially because there are a lot of young people doing it,” Gusciora said. “No young person should be on either side of a gun. We should really change the conversation.”
Pedro Medina, Trenton’s interim police director, is working to place more sergeants and other officers in leadership positions out on the streets, Gusciora said, noting that the police force first needs to be drastically bolstered in size.
“We are working with the county and the state to coordinate police resources that they have, and we need to get more state funding so that we can increase the ranks of the police,” the rookie mayor said. “I would love to see the ranks increased 25 officers each year over the next four years so we can get back to our previous staffing levels. We used to be around 400. Now we are down to 290.”
The city and communities also need to do a better job engaging with youth, Gusciora said.
“There’s too many young persons who are alienated from the city and we want to return to a sense of normalcy,” the mayor said.
Rue was found inside a gray Kia that was parked on the side of the street across from Wetzel Field in the 600 block of Morris Avenue, along the outer edges of the East Ward.
“We have to work on fixing the city,” East Ward Councilman Joseph Harrison said Saturday afternoon while participating in a backpack giveaway near the intersection of Monmouth and Locust streets. “We have a lot of problems and we have to keep on working on moving the city forward, positive.”
The backpack giveaway cultivated a sense of community and happiness about a mile away from where the fatal shooting occurred. The annual back-to-school backpack giveaway on the 500 block of Monmouth Street was organized by Helen McCall, 84, who has been a longtime community pillar. McCall, a great-great grandmother, said she works with youth “to help them to learn how to be better and think of education instead of the gun.”
“I have been working with the kids for 50 years and I am still at it,” McCall said.
About 150 backpacks were given away at McCall’s event Saturday.
“To see little kids with a smile on their face, it is priceless,” Harrison said. “I want to see these kids smiling instead of getting caught up with something and getting in trouble. We want to give these kids an education.”
No arrests have been announced and no suspect descriptions have been released in connection with Saturday’s fatal shooting. Anyone with information is urged to contact the Mercer County Homicide Task Force at 609-989-6406 or email@example.com.
Trentonian staff writers Penny Ray and Sulaiman Abdur-Rahman contributed to this report.