Teen killed at party

Alleged vendetta leads to one dead, two wounded

A 17-year old youth was fatally shot and two teens were wounded Monday at a Jersey City community center on Comunipaw Avenue, in what law enforcement officials suggest was a targeted shooting.

The event on Aug. 8, billed as a birthday party, was held at the Lincoln Center, a hall owned by the Holy Ghost Tabernacle Church. The event was advertised as “a back to school” event and drew a lot of teens.

The suspect had not been apprehended by the end of the week.

The 17-year-old victim, whose name was withheld by officials because of his age, was armed with what Mayor Steven Fulop described as “an illegal handgun” and had a record of arrests for weapons possession and burglary.

Fulop criticized early reports that said the shooting had occurred at the church. “This is a hall that is rented out for various functions,” he said.

Witnesses told police the gunman started to fire just after entering the front door, but Public Safety Director James Shea said the attacker gained access to the hall at about 11:30 p.m. and started shooting a few minutes later, hitting the victim twice in the head.

The two teenage bystanders were hit either by stray bullets or pieces of bullets. Both youths, 12 and 14, were transported to Jersey City Medical Center where they were treated and released. The victim was also transported to the medical center, where he died.

Shea said the Jersey City Police Department and the Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office are working on several leads to apprehend the suspect. A description of the alleged shooter was not available.

One of the teen victims fled the community center to a nearby restaurant to call the police.

“This was not a random act,” said Fulop. “The victim had a loaded handgun on him at the time. He had been arrested two times over the last year for similar offences.”

Shea said the matter is under investigation by the prosecutor’s office and city police homicide division, and that they have several leads. These may include area video from local surveillance equipment.

Talk on the train the next day

Some African-American teens traveling the Hudson Bergen Light Rail on Wednesday morning were abuzz with the news, talking about a vendetta. By morning the shooting had already become near-myth on the street.

“He came in, he shot him, and he died,” one teen said. “But then he came back to life, and so he shot him again, and this time he really died,”

“I heard he fired four times,” one of the other teens said. “He came in looking for him and when he found him, he shot him dead.”

Police changing strategies to deal with shootings

Although not all shootings result in deaths, officials note there have been dozens of reports during May and June.

Gun violence in the city has been on the rise for several years, and late last year, Shea implemented changes to the Police Department to address it. Shea said the department has responded to increased shooting by assigning more police to the midnight shift and to violence-prone areas.

“He thought he was safe because he had a gun, but he’s dead now.” – Jersey City teen

Shea said the southern and western portions of the city – such as where the most recent murder occurred – have the highest rate of reported gun violence.

While murders in the city are down slightly from the past, gun violence appears to have undergone a significant increase in 2015 from the year before, and 2016 is apparently on track to exceed 2015.

Earlier this year, Shea said many shootings are retaliatory in nature. Former inmates returning to the street sometimes seek revenge for real or imagined slights. Many of the shootings, he said, are related to street gangs. Often, victims and attackers know each other.

In some cases, the victims themselves are carrying guns and tense situations break out into violence. This appears to be the case with the Aug. 8 shooting.

Earlier this year, Shea said he put together a plan with the prosecutor’s office to get some of the most dangerous individuals off the street. In March, the police and prosecutor’s office conducted a sweep throughout Jersey City and made more than a dozen arrests.

Teens on the train who knew both attacker and victim said the victim thought he was safe because he was carrying “a piece.”

“He thought he was safe because he had a gun, but he’s dead now,” one teen said.

Al Sullivan may be reached at asullivan@hudsonreporter.com

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