Will 100 More Cops Save Newark?

Friday, 10 January 2014 21:31 Local Talk News Editor 


Law enforcement authorities held an omnibus press conference Dec. 31, for example, announcing the arrests of three males in connection with three shootings and "a suspicious death" in Newark, Irvington and East Orange Christmas Week. Two more men and up to three others were further announced as "of interest" regarding the Christmas Day shootings in Newark.

The four men accused of fatally carjacking a Hoboken man at The Mall at Short Hills Dec. 15 meanwhile put in "not guilty" pleas to state murder, carjacking, conspiracy and weapons possession charges before State Superior Judge Peter J. Vazquez here Jan. 8.

Crime and punishment officials meanwhile announced a crime fighting plan, featuring the hiring of 100 new Newark Police Department officers throughout 2014, at a Newark City Hall conference here Jan. 7.

Newarkers Basim Henry, 32, Karif Ford, 31, and Kevin Roberts, 35, plus Irvingtonian Hanif Thompson, 29, appeared before Vazquez around 10 a.m. in his sixth floor Essex County Veterans Courthouse courtroom Jan. 8. Each one, through their public defenders pleaded "Not Guilty" to state counts.

Vazquez - before a courtroom gallery full of media representatives, law enforcement officers and defendants' family members - kept each defendant's bail set at $2 million. The quartet were then returned to the Essex County Jail in the East Ward.

Federal prosecutors may pursue capital carjacking counts, however, on all four suspects. They have charged Henry Dec. 24 with interstate parole violations for fleeing to a Paler Twp., Pa. motel Dec. 18 - and where FBI agents and N.J. State Troopers arrested him Dec. 21.

They are accused of fatally shooting Dustin Friedland while pushing his wife out of their 2008 Range Rover in the mall's garage Dec. 15. The Range Rover and the getaway Chevrolet Suburban minivan were respectively found in Newark and South Orange.

Friedland's Dec. 15 death was the first of four high-profile murders that happened in the "Local Talk" area into Dec. 27. The murders helped push Newark's homicide toll to 111 - the highest since 1990.

Acting Essex County Prosecutor Carolyn Murray convened a press conference 2 p.m. Dec. 31 to announce three arrests of suspects linked to as many homicidal incidents Dec. 21, 25 and 27.

Murray - flanked by Newark and Irvington police directors Samuel DeMaio and Joseph Santiago and East Orange Police Chief William Robinson, among 10 other officials - announced that "a 15-year-old juvenile" was arrested for the three Christmas Night shootings on three teenagers on the 100 block of Schley Street.

"The juvenile has been charged with the murder of Zainee Haley, 13 and Kasson Mormon, 15," said Murray before a Veterans Courthouse media room of 40. "The juvenile is also charged with the attempted murder of a third victim and weapons charges. The 15-year-old has been remanded to the Essex County Youth Facility (in Newark)."

Haley was taking out trash to the curb at about 10:30 p.m. Dec. 25.when the suspect opened fire. Mormon and Abdul "Scooter" Frazier, 15, who were standing on the front porch, were also hit. Frazier, who was shot in the neck, remains at Beth Israel Medical Center.

Murray would not say what caused the shooting except that, "it's a matter under investigation." The prosecutor also said that there may be others who accompanied the shooter who "are of interest." A witness, in a published account, said that he saw up to four males run from Schley Street, then turn around and ran back.

Murray meanwhile announced that Superior Court Judge Michael Casale has issued an arrest warrant for Anthony Fields, 19, of Newark. Fields is wanted for shooting five people in front of Slick's Go-Go Bar, 371 Nye Ave., Irvington, 12:40 a.m. Dec. 25.

Pierre Clervoyant, 34, of Elizabeth, Woodley Daniel, 32, of Hillside, and Mushir Cureton, 27, of Newark, were killed. The other two were injured.

Fields, when his is apprehended, faces three counts of murder plus charges of possession of a weapon and possessing a weapon for an unlawful purpose. He remains at large as of deadline.

Murray said that Damiar Pendergrass, 18, of Newark, was arrested in Irvington early Dec. 31 for the Dec. 21 shooting of Reginald "Goose" Terry, 18, and a second man around 260 Washington St. Witnesses told police that Terry, a college student, and the second man were walking away from a party argument at 1 a.m.

Terry, a University High School graduate and Central High football player, was buried Dec. 30. The Newark Anti-Violence Coalition had scheduled a rally at his curbside shrine off Market Street for 5 p.m. Jan. 8. The other person received non-life threatening injuries.

Murray said that Judge Robert H. Gardner has issued an arrest warrant for the second suspect, identified as Raquan Langford, 19, of Newark. Langford would be charged with conspiracy and weapons charges.

Pendergrass is being held on $750,000 bail.

Murray added that Babatope Owoseni, 33, of East Orange, has been arrested and charged in the Dec. 27 murder of his wife, Fatoumata Owoseni, 26. Judge Gardner has set $750,000 bail on B. Owoseni, who remain in the Essex County Jail.

Murray and EOPD spokesman Sgt. Maurice Boyd said that city officers went to an apartment at 39 So. Munn Ave. on a report of a missing female. They found an unresponsive F. Owoseni, who was nine months pregnant and brought her to University Hospital. EOPD's case was turned over to ECPO when F. Owoseni, of Maryland, was declared dead.

Newark's 111-person death count was realized by the shooting of Juan Carlos Diaz, 45, on the 100 block of Sussex Avenue at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 31. ECPO Chief of Detectives Anthony Ambrose said that his uncle, Antonio Diaz, 47, was arrested and charged with murder and weapons possession charges Jan. 1.

Murray said that detectives first told Haley's mourners of her suspect's arrest during her funeral at nearby Mt. Zion Baptist Church in Elizabeth at 10 a.m. Dec. 31. DeMaio noted that the use and availability of high powered firearms are a factor for the multiple shootings and the 24-year city record homicide rate.

DeMaio, flanked by fellow law enforcers and various city and state elected officials, announced Jan. 8 his intention to add 100 more uniform NPD officers to be force before Dec. 31, 2014.

Newark's top cop said that 25 officers currently working as dispatchers will be replaced by civilians and put on patrols. Civilian dispatchers have similarly replaced another 25 officers last year. DeMaio added that he will continue to take officers off various administrative duties and go out to the streets.

"Believe it or not, we have police officers acting as chief financial officers," said Demaio before a public and media audience of 100 at City Hall. "None have a financing degree."

The other 75 uniform officers, said DeMaio, will be coming from the ranks of police academy graduates. Many will replace between 54 and 87 officers who are eligible for retirement.

"We have 87 officers who'll reach their 25-year eligibility this year," said DeMaio. "We will keep asking them of their intentions. We know of 54 who are intending to retire."

DeMaio, when asked about whether any more officers will be hired from the laid-off ranks, said that list has been exhausted. They had included some of the 167 the city laid off Nov. 30, 2011 and 15 former Camden City police officers.

DeMaio shook his head against a question of whether Newark should fold its force into Essex County like Camden County had done with Camden City's police last summer. He said that such regionalization "would divert resources."

DeMaio said that salaries and other funding for the 100 officers would come from the currently proposed $167 million 2014 departmental budget. About $50 million alone is set for salaries for the 1,007-person force.

Councilmen John S. James and Ras Baraka, when asked by "Local Talk" after the conference, said that they are working on the overall city budget.

"We're working on it so we won't lay off any more officers," said James.

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