One man has been charged with firearms violations in the shooting that killed two people and wounded 12 at a house party Saturday night in Fairfield Township, authorities announced Monday morning.
More arrests and charges in the case are expected, local and state authorities said at a Monday morning press event led by Gov. Phil Murphy.
Kevin K. Dawkins, 36, who lives on Commerce Street, the same street where the party took place, is charged with four gun crimes, one that accuses him of possessing a firearm as a convicted felon, Cumberland County Prosecutor Jennifer Webb-McRae said.
“This was a targeted attack,” Attorney General Gurbir Grewal said. Investigators recovered multiple firearms at the scene.
He identified the two victims who died as Asia Hester, 25, and Kevin Elliott, 30.
Grewal, Webb-McRae and State Police Superintendent Col. Patrick Callahan declined to elaborate on the investigation, discuss a possible motive or say if gangs were suspected in the incident.
Callahan said state troopers responded to a noise complaint at a nearby party on King Drive earlier Saturday and some of the partygoers then went to the gathering, a birthday party, in the 1000 block of East Commerce Street.
A trooper concluding a traffic stop at about 11:30 p.m. heard the gunshots, thinking it was fireworks, and responded as 911 calls started arriving at a dispatch center reporting a shooting.
Webb-McRae said investigators estimate several hundreds people were at the party on East Commerce, and the victims of the gunfire range in age from 19 to 35, and are all Cumberland County residents. Some have been released from the hospital, while some remain in “dire condition.”
She appealed for information from anyone who may have been in attendance and has cellphone footage from the party or the shooting itself.
“While we mourn for those affected, we remind the community that we need their help to bring those responsible to justice,” Webb-McRae said.
“What we saw here in Fairfield is a microcosm of the scale of gun violence we see elsewhere, in other communities in our state and across our country,” Murphy said, leading off the press event. “We are at the point where this kind of horrific scene is almost part of our daily lives. It has become commonplace.”
“If there is one thing we can never normalize, it is senseless gun violence,” the governor said.
While his administration has enacted more and strong gun safety laws, and said New Jersey is a leader in the effort, Murphy said “but, and it’s a big but, this is a nation awash in guns, and we are not on an island. We are not immune as was proved two nights ago.”
“There are still too many people with easy access to guns who should never even have access to a gun,” Murphy said.
Fairfield Township Mayor Benjamin Byrd Sr. called the arrest made so far a “bright light in this situation.”
“The community was devastated by the vicious actions of these people” the mayor said. “Our hearts have been heavy since the incident happened.”
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