What to Know
- Two people were killed and 12 people were wounded in a mass shooting at a birthday party packed with hundreds of people in Fairfield Township, Cumberland County over the weekend.
- Photos show overturned pop-up party tents, tables and chairs, and debris throughout the home’s yard.
- New Jersey Attorney General called it a "targeted attack."
A "targeted attack" at a large birthday party at a South Jersey house left at least two people dead and 12 others wounded in the mass shooting.
Authorities arrived at the East Commerce Street home in Fairfield Township, about an hour outside of Philadelphia, late Saturday night to find a chaotic scene.
"This was not a random act of violence this was a targeted attack," New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal said at a Monday morning news conference.
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Grewal named the victims who died in the shooting as 30-year-old Kevin Elliott and 25-year-old Asia Hester. Both were from Bridgeton, Cumberland County.
There were at least 12 other people between 19 and 35 years of age who were injured in the shooting and transported to area hospitals. Most were taken by private vehicle before police arrived. At least one person was listed in critical condition. Some of the injured were released from hospitals by Monday morning.
It was estimated that there were several hundred people at the party, Cumberland County Prosecutor Jennifer Webb-McRae said.
“Many others who were in attendance will carry the emotional scars of Saturday night,” Gov. Phil Murphy said Monday.
One person was arrested. Webb-McRae identified that person as 36-year-old Kevin K. Dawkins of Bridgeton, New Jersey. He was being held in county jail on weapons charges since he wasn't allowed to have a weapon.
Police received an anonymous tip Sunday that there was a person with a gun in the woods behind the Maple Garden Apartments in Bridgeton, according to a criminal complaint obtained by NBC10. Officers found Dawkins on the ground near a tree, clutching a handgun. He dropped the handgun after officers ordered him to do so.
Police anticipate additional arrests, New Jersey State Police Col. Pat Callahan said Monday.
Grewal said there is a significant amount of evidence to process and that multiple guns had been recovered from the scene.
Photos show overturned pop-up party tents, tables and chairs, and debris throughout the home's yard. A long driveway was still filled with cars late Sunday morning.
A resident who runs a local anti-violence organization said he was called out to assist families at the 90s-themed party. John Fuqua, of Life Worth Living, said guests who attended the party were of all ages.
Two cousins who live in the area of the shooting said they heard music from the party, then a series of shots — at least 15 of them over a few minutes.
Joeron Pierce and James Pierce, who live in homes next to each other, said that there was chaos after that. Partygoers ran through their yards and asked to come into their houses. They said cars ran into one other trying to speed away.
Fairfield Township Mayor Benjamin Byrd Sr., who was at the scene Sunday, said that Murphy offered his support and help.
“Nobody knows when someone's going to come out of the woods with a gun,” Byrd said.
Melissa Helmbrecht, who works for Hopeloft, a Bridgeton advocacy group for at-risk young people, said several young people in the group were at the party at the time of the shooting.
“It was hundreds of people, our neighbors, who were just getting together because it was the first really warm, nice night. There were a lot of parties and get-togethers throughout the community, and this was probably the biggest," Helmbrecht said.
John Fuqua told NBC10 his family members were at the party and his nephew had to run for his life as gunshots rang out from the tree line.
“My nephew said he was having a good time and next thing all he heard was shooting and he was running for his life. He got on the ground, he had to crawl. He stepped over a dead body," Fuqua said.
Murphy summed up the horror of the entire scene: "This was a birthday party, a birthday party is supposed to be a joyous event, not a target for those hellbent on inflicting harm on a community.
Murphy said officials can't reveal all exact details about the shooting since it's an ongoing investigation.
The shooting took place after police broke up a party that was a short distance away after receiving noise complaints earlier on Saturday night, Callahan said. That party broke up around 11 p.m.
Some of those partygoers wound up at the Commerce Street party, he said. A trooper then heard what he thought was fireworks or gunfire shortly after 11:30 p.m., Callahan said.
Callahan didn't say if they mixing of partygoers had anything to do with the shooting. He said that many of the partygoers were gone by the time most law enforcement arrived.
Grewal said the the county prosecutor's office and New Jersey State Police were leading the investigation with support from federal, state and local partners.
Webb-McRae urged anyone with information to share video, details or photos from the scene to contact authorities. Tips can be made anonymously.
Anyone with information is asked to contact the New Jersey State Police Bridgeton Station at 856-451-0101 or submit a tip via the Cumberland County Prosecutor’s Office tip website.