NEWARK, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) — A 19-year-old man was arrested Friday in connection with a drive-by shooting that killed an off-duty Newark, N.J., police officer who was getting a slice of pizza at a neighborhood fast-food place, though a second suspect who is believed to be the shooter remained at large.
Rasul McNeil-Thomas was arrested at his home in Newark on Friday. He was charged with carjacking, conspiracy and weapons offenses and was being held on $300,000 bail. There was no immediate word on whether he had an attorney.
Officer William Johnson, 45, was hit and gravely wounded inside the Texas Fried Chicken at the corner of Clinton Place and Lyons Avenue around 10 p.m., on Thursday. Authorities said someone drove up to the restaurant, fired shots and then sped away.
Funeral bunting was displayed Friday at Newark Police headquarters, and Mayor Cory Booker was visibly moved, reports CBS 2’s John Slattery.
“This is a punishing, penetrating pain that we all are feeling right now,” he said.
“A vehicle emerged outside and fired from outside into the restaurant, where Johnson and two others were struck,” Acting Police Director Samuel DeMaio said.
A 21-year-old man was wounded in the stomach and was in stable condition at University Hospital.
A 19-year-old at the restaurant with her toddler was struck in the shoulder. She was released from the hospital by Friday morning. Her child was not wounded.
Authorities said Friday it doesn’t appear Johnson was the target of the shooting. Police said there were more people in the fast-food place than the three who were shot, and one of them may have been the intended target.
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“We don’t have any reason to believe that any of the three who were hit were targeted, but we believe someone in the restaurant was the target of the shooting,” DeMaio said.
Police are trying to track down witnesses or anyone who may have seen anything, including the dark-colored van that sped away. Officials said the shooting was caught on tape by a camera inside the restaurant, and that authorities were reviewing the footage.
DeMaio said the video shows the shooting happened so quickly that Johnson would not have had time to draw a weapon.
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Overnight, his family and fellow police officers rushed to University Hospital to be by his side, as doctors frantically tried to keep him alive.
Johnson was a 16-year veteran of the force, lived in Newark and had two daughters.
“Officer Johnson has served the people of Newark bravely and honorably for 16 years,” acting Essex County prosecutor Carolyn A. Murray said in a statement. “Sadly, his life ended on the very streets where he worked to serve and protect others.”
“I’m very upset about it, really,” neighbor Mary Wright said.
“Good officer, well-liked. Everybody liked him. Quiet, church-going officer,” Newark Police Sgt. David Burgo said. “We’ve all got family, all got kids, all want to go home. It’s terrible. We’re in shock.”
“Whenever any innocent person is shot it cuts at the core of our community, it is an agony that cannot be expressed,” Mayor Booker said. “We as a community will not let this lie.”
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The Police Benevolent Association and the Essex County Sheriff’s Office had offered a reward totaling $20,000 for information that leads to a conviction.
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