TRENTON, N.J. — An all-night arts and music festival turned deadly Sunday morning when gunfire erupted in a crowd, sending people stampeding and leaving one suspect dead and 22 people injured, authorities said.
Authorities say a number of fistfights broke out at an all-night New Jersey arts festival and the event was on the verge of being shut down when gunfire erupted, killing a suspect and injuring 22 other people, some critically.
Mercer County Prosecutor Angelo Onofri says it appears that several Trenton-area gangs had a dispute at the venue, and multiple suspects began shooting at each other.
Onofri says the suspect who was killed, 33-year-old Tahaij Wells, was recently released from prison and was on parole since February 2018 on homicide-related charges.
He says another suspect, 23-year-old Amir Armstrong, is in stable condition and charged with a weapons offense. It was not immediately known if Armstrong had an attorney who could comment.
Onofri says three of the four critically injured people have been upgraded to stable condition; the one remaining critically injured man “is believed to be a suspect in this matter.”
Seventeen people were treated for gunshot wounds, said Mercer County Prosecutor Angelo Onofri. Four of those, including a 13-year-old boy, remain in critical condition late Sunday morning.
Two suspects opened fire around 2:45 a.m. during the Art All Night Trenton festival that showcases local art, music, food and films. One of the suspects, a 33-year-old man, was killed, authorities said. Onofri said he believes police killed him. Another suspect is in custody. Onofri said “neighborhood beef” is behind the shooting inside the historic Roebling Wire Works Building.
On Sunday, there was crime scene tape surrounding the site of the old warehouse that now shares a parking lot with a supermarket, bank and laundry facility.
Police are also investigating an attempted carjacking that occurred in an alley close to the crime scene. Onofri said police are working to determine if it’s connected to the shooting.
Gennie Darisme was at the festival when the shooting occurred, getting ready to leave around 2:45 a.m. when she heard shots and saw people running.
“There were people trampling other people, cars hitting other cars,” she said.
When she was walking back to her car after the shots ceased, Darisme said she saw someone bleeding on the ground, in handcuffs.
“People were running to him, trying to see his face, to see if he’s a family member or a friend,” she said.
Ernie Rivas has owned a shop near the site of the shooting for 17 years and said he came back from the beach Sunday morning when he heard what happened.
“I’ve never seen this happen. It’s bad, I feel bad, especially on Father’s Day,” Rivas said.
Theresa Brown said she’s been volunteering at Art All Night for 12 years and has never seen or heard of violence like this. She said she was leaving her volunteer shift around 2 a.m. and heard “pop, pop, pop.”
“I thought it was a car backfiring,” she said.
She returned to the scene around 7 a.m. and saw the police.
Art All Night Trenton began Saturday afternoon and was scheduled to conclude Sunday afternoon. The remainder of the festival has been cancelled.
“We’re very shocked. We’re deeply saddened. Our hearts ache and our eyes are blurry but our dedication and resolve to building a better Trenton through community, creativity and inspiration will never fade. Not tonight. Not ever,” festival organizers posted on social media Sunday.
A spokeswoman for St. Francis Medical Center in Trenton said 10 victims were being treated there for minor injuries. She said they were both men and women, ranging in age from 17 to 48. They were in various stages of being released, she said.
One man with a gunshot wound was transferred to Cooper University Hospital in Camden.
Capital Health Systems spokeswoman Kate Stier said they have “at least 16” patients there, including the 13-year-old boy in critical condition. That total may not include people treated and released.
Trenton Mayor Eric E. Jackson said the violence can’t be “discarded as just random violence; this is a public health issue.”