TRENTON, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) – At least one person died and another 22 were hurt, including a 13-year-old boy, after a pair of gunmen opened fire at an all-night art show in Trenton early Sunday.
Authorities say prior to the shooting, there were “numerous physical altercations that took place inside and outside of the venue,” prompting members of the Trenton Police Department to inform organizers of the Art All Night festival that the event needed to be shut down.
“There was a report that the mood inside the venue had been changing,” said Mercer County Prosecutor Angelo Onofri. Additional fights broke out as officers began to disburse the crowd, according to Onofri. Gunfire erupted moments later.
5:00 p.m. Update From Authorities:
Shots rang out around 2:45 a.m. during the festival that showcases local art, music, food and films. 32-year-old suspect Tahaij Wells was killed, apparently by police, and a second suspect, identified as 23-year-old Amir Armstrong, was taken into custody.
Wells had been on parole since February on homicide-related charges. Armstrong was charged with unlawful possession of a handgun. It was not immediately known if he had an attorney who could comment.
Onofri said the shooting appears to be related to several neighborhood gangs having a dispute at the venue.
Of 17 people treated for gunshot wounds, four of them, including a 13-year-old boy, were taken to the hospital in critical condition. The teen and two others were upgraded to stable by late Sunday, Onofri said. The remaining individual in critical condition was believed to be a third suspect.
Early Morning Scene Of Chaos In Trenton:
Off-duty police officers and other security presence inside the venue returned fire, which officials said was also a part of their ongoing investigation.
On Sunday, crime scene tape surrounded the site of the historic Roebling Wire Works Building that now shares a parking lot with a supermarket, bank and laundry. Police recovered multiple weapons, including a handgun with an extended-capacity magazine which can carry more rounds than is permitted by New Jersey law.
Authorities say that about 1,000 people were in the area when the shooting started, causing what witnesses described as a stampede as festival-goers took cover.
“I just started panicking, like I didn’t know what to do and nothing, like, it shocked me because that was the first time I ever witnessed something like that,” witness Cory Washington said.
Gennie Darisme said she saw someone bleeding on the ground in handcuffs while she was running to her car in the chaos.
“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 from 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” 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.”
Governor Phil Murphy visited the scene Sunday afternoon, tweeting “Because of faith, because of community, we will rise above this senseless violence.”