Mother's Day slaying: Mayor calls gunmen 'cowards,' calls for policy changes in Newark

By Jessica Mazzola | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com
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on May 11, 2015

Newark Mayor Ras Baraka addresses the press at a conference at city hall on Monday, May 11.

 

NEWARK — The alleged gunmen will be caught, and city policies will change as the result of the death of a 15-year-old Newark boy at an annual Mother's Day event, officials said at a press conference Monday.

"I think that they were cowards," Newark Mayor Ras Baraka said of the gunmen who officials say opened fire at a crowded "Blessing of the Bikes" event held each year on Mother's Day in the city.

"There's no place for them to hide. We're going to get them, and we're going to bring them to justice."

According to Baraka, the Newark police department did not sign off on the annual event, but a permit for the event was signed by employees within the city. His administration is still tracking down exactly how and why the event was allowed, he said.

Police officers were also present at the event, officials confirmed.

After the event started to break up, a string of shots rang out over the large crowd lingering in the streets, leaving one dead and several more injured, authorities said. The victim of the violence has been identified as Al-Shakeen Woodson, authorities said.

"After last night, I think there are some things that need to change," Baraka said.

"We need to make sure that the mayor's office has a final say so on all large activities, events, festivals, and permits...Never again will the city issue a permit to have an event that scale without the mayor's approval."

Baraka also said his administration is looking into whether or not the Newark Knights Motorcycle Club properly classified the type and size of event they were planning.

"We have to look to see if they took out a festival permit, which I'm sure they did not," Baraka said. "There's no way (we) would approve (an event) that is going to cost (the city money for police coverage and event clean-up) without skin in the game from the organization planning the event in the first place."

A representative from the Newark Knights declined to comment.

Baraka also said several police initiatives — like officer and clergy neighborhood walks — that the city was planning to implement after Memorial Day will now be implemented earlier each year.

"We need to talk about...that the summer has started for us already," he said.

At the conference, Essex County Prosecutor's Office Chief of Detectives Anthony Ambrose said it is unclear whether or not the shooting was tied to the event itself, and that authorities have not yet determined a motive for the killing or arrested any suspects.

"This investigation is active," Ambrose said. "We are combing the streets. We are out there at the scene right now looking for evidence and looking for witnesses to come forward."

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