Five people were shot, four of them fatally, when gunfire erupted five separate times in one day in the same New Jersey county Thursday, authorities said.
The first victim, 28-year-old Dennis Vega, was killed in Elizabeth early in the morning, authorities said. The next four shootings were in rapid succession -- wounding one and killing three in Elizabeth and Linden, both Union County cities, within a two-hour span late Thursday, authorities said.
Authorities say the first gunshots in the later pattern erupted around 9:50 p.m., when police responded to a report of shots fired near South Park and Sixth Streets in Elizabeth. Officers found 28-year-old Jamil Payne on the ground, having been shot multiple times. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
An hour later, police got another report of shots fired, on Clark Place. There they found 32-year-old Kevin Nelson, also with multiple gunshot wounds. He too was pronounced dead at the scene.
Ten minutes after that, around 11 p.m., authorities say they got yet another report of gunfire, this time near Jackson Avenue and Julia Street. Responding officers found a 24-year-old Elizabeth man at the scene, also suffering from multiple gunshot wounds. He was taken to a hospital and remained there in serious condition Friday, prosecutors said.
The fifth shooting in the county Thursday was in the neighboring town of Linden, about 20 minutes after police found the 24-year-old Elizabeth man badly injured. In that case, police responding to a call at an apartment on Prince Street found 37-year-old James Garner with multiple gunshot wounds. Garner was taken to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
It wasn't immediately clear if authorities believed the shootings were connected.
Vega's relatives set up a memorial near New Point Road and 7th Street Friday.
"He was a good guy, good standup dude," said Christopher Torres, Vega's brother. "Righteous, humble, showed everybody love. He'd give you the shirt off his back if you need it."
Residents in Elizabeth are shocked by the violence.
"It was never like this," said Jean Grady. "All of a sudden, everyone's OK with shooting other people."
Salaam Ismial and other anti-violence community advocates were pushing for a weekend rally to brainstorm solutions.
"If we are not working together to eradicate this problem, this community will be like other urban communities around this country where violence continutes to be the call of the day," he said.
Authorities are offering a reward of up to $10,000 for information leading to an arrest and indictment in any of these shootings; tips can be given anonymously by phone at 908-654-TIPS (8477), via text message by texting “UCTIP” plus a message to 274637 (CRIMES), or online at www.uctip.org.