Shooting Deaths Shed Light on Trenton Violence

By David Chang and Na'eem Douglas
|  Monday, Aug 5, 2013  |  Updated 7:26 PM EDT
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Over the weekend, three people were killed which pushed the murder count to 27 which is more than all of last year. Trenton police director Ralph Rivera says he is doing the best he can with limited resources. NBC10's Na'eem Douglas reports.

NBC10 - Na’eem Douglas

Over the weekend, three people were killed which pushed the murder count to 27 which is more than all of last year. Trenton police director Ralph Rivera says he is doing the best he can with limited resources. NBC10's Na'eem Douglas reports.

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Recent shooting deaths over the weekend are bringing light to the gun violence in Trenton.

Police say a gunman opened fire around 11:14 p.m. on Saturday on East State Street. Barry Church, 52, believed to be an innocent bystander, was found slumped on the front steps of 1158 East State Street. Police say he was shot in the underarm and pronounced dead at the scene.

Investigators say 23-year-old Hassan Allen was also killed in the shooting. Investigators say he was inside an SUV when a bullet entered his back and traveled toward his neck. He was pronounced dead at the scene

After he was shot, police say he lost control of his SUV and hit 23-year-old Carmen Wright and her cousin. The SUV also struck several parked cars.

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Wright was severely injured and underwent extensive surgery at Capital Health Systems, according to police. She is listed in stable but extremely critical condition. Her cousin suffered a minor foot injury and was later released from the hospital.

Police say a third shooting victim, 18, arrived at a nearby hospital shortly after the shooting. He is in stable condition after he was shot in the leg and ankle.

No arrests have been made.

The recent shooting deaths brought the homicide count to 27 in all so far this year in Trenton, three more than the entire year of 2012.

"Every time I hear about a murder it just sets me back," said Regina Thompson-Jenkins.

Jenkins lost her son, a 19-year-old college student, to gun violence last year. She says the weekend's shooting deaths caused her to reflect on her own loss.

"I can relate," she said. "I can feel the mothers' pain."

New Jersey Senator Shirley Turner says something needs to be done to reduce the violence.

"This is where the turning point occurred in the Revolutionary War, the Battle of Trenton," she said. "But now we have our own Battle of Trenton. Trying to combat the gangs, the drugs and the guns." 

In 2011, Trenton laid off more than 100 police officers. In light of the violence, Trenton Mayor Tony Mack wrote a letter to Governor Chris Christie on Friday asking for more money in order for the city to expand its police force. According to Mack, his plan would add 75 officers to the force at a cost of $10,044,750. Mack requested the state increase Trenton's Consolidated Municipal Property Tax Relief Act (CMPRTA) funding by $10,100,000 in order to cover the cost.

According to Mack, the Trenton Police Department's budget is the lowest it has been in 10 years. Mack also claims the state has reduced its aid to Trenton by $32.3 million over the past three years.

“The State of New Jersey’s budget exceeds $32,000,000,000 for the current fiscal year." Mack wrote. "We are asking Governor Christie and our legislators to find $10,100,000, to stem the tidal wave of blood that is being spilled in the shadow of the State House. I guarantee that every dollar will be used for the purposes of hiring police."

Some city council members believe Mack's efforts are too little, too late however.

"If the league of municipalities can't move them to give us this money then I don't know why the mayor thinks he has the power," said Trenton councilwoman Marge Caldwell-Wilson. "Especially since nobody wants to speak to the mayor."

Some say the problems lie with Mayor Mack who is in the midst of controversy due to an impending corruption trial.

"We can't meet with the governor," Wilson said. "The legislators' hands are tied because nobody wants to be in the same room as an indicted mayor."

Elected officials say a lack of leadership and funds are chiefly responsible for the violence plaguing Trenton. With 27 so far, the city is on pace to beat the homicide record of 31 set back in 2005.

"If you don't have public safety then you have what we have here today," Turner said. "The Wild Wild West."

NBC10 reached out to Mayor Mack, Governor Christie and Trenton's Police Director for comment but have not yet heard back from them.
 

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