What to Know
- State police in New Jersey say at least two people were killed and 12 people were wounded in a shooting at a house party in Fairfield Township, Cumberland County
- Photos show overturned pop-up party tents, tables and chairs, and debris throughout the home’s yard
- In a prepared statement, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy called the shooting “horrific"
A "targeted attack" at a 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 house in Fairfield Township, about an hour outside of Philadelphia, late Saturday night. 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.
"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. 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.
There were at least 12 other people between 19 and 35 years of age who were injured and transported to area hospitals. At least one person was listed in critical condition. Some of the injured has been released from hospitals by Monday morning.
One person was arrested. Cumberland County Prosecutor Jennifer Webb-McRae identified that person as 36-year-old Kevin K Dawkins. He was being held in county jail on weapons charges. NJSP Colonel Pat Callahan said he expects additional arrests as their investigation continues.
New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy called the shooting “horrific.”
“This despicable and cowardly act of gun violence only steels our commitment to ensuring New Jersey leads the nation in passing and enforcing strong and commonsense gun safety laws,” Murphy said in a statement. “No community should ever experience what occurred last night in Fairfield.”
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.
Two cousins who live in the area of the shooting said they heard music from the party until after midnight, 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 Gov. Murphy offered his support and help.
“Nobody knows when someone's going to come out of the woods with a gun,” Byrd said. He did not have any details about the shooting.
Melissa Helmbrecht, who works for Hopeloft, a Bridgeton advocacy group for at-risk young people, said several youths 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.
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 woods.
“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," he said.
So far this year, 229 mass shootings recorded across the U.S., according to a tally comes from the Gun Violence Archive. The nonprofit group says 60 of the mass shootings, which are defined by four or more shooting victims (excluding the shooter), were reported in May alone.
Just last month, Gov. Murphy called for a dozen new gun control measures. Gun laws in the Garden State are considered among the toughest in the nation and the governor said the new proposals didn’t stem from what was going on in other states, but the recent shootings have “further emboldened us without question.”