Friday, May 21, 2010

Gangs | Bystanders caught in middle of Plainfield gang feud | NJ Newsroom

Bystanders caught in middle of Plainfield gang feud

Wednesday, 19 May 2010 14:25


A man and two women suffered injuries in the West End neighborhood of Plainfield in what police are calling a gang related feud between rival gangs that has been seething for months.

The 45-year-old male victim in the shooting that occurred around 8:40 p.m. Sunday, drove himself to the former Muhlenberg Regional Medical Center after sustaining a gunshot wound to his upper left arm. He told police he was driving his 2002 Volkswagen Jetta near the 400 block of Liberty Street near the Liberty Village housing complex when someone shot at his vehicle, shattering the rear window and hitting him in the arm. Investigators say the victim, who told them a group of "young boys" fired the shot, was otherwise uncooperative.

That shooting incident remains under investigation, but no suspects have been arrested at this time. Police said there might be a connection between the Liberty Street shooting and a second shooting that occurred during the wee hours of Monday morning less than a quarter-mile away at the Elmwood Gardens.

The first officer who responded to that shooting was already in the area and heard the gunfire. Upon arriving at West Second and New streets in the Elmwood Gardens housing complex around 2 a.m., the officer found a 21-year-old Dunellen female suffering from a gunshot wound to the upper left arm.

The second victim, a 30-year-old woman, was found several minutes later a half-block away suffering from a gunshot wound to the right buttock. Before being transported to the Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in Brunswick, both victims told investigators they did not see the shooter or shooters.

An immediate search of the area turned up no leads, but several witnesses told police the shots came from a Black 2003 Mercedes-Benz bearing Virginia plates that was seen in the area driving the wrong way down a one-way street. Police later found the suspect vehicle approximately 1.5 miles from the scene of the shootings near the corner of West Fifth Street and Stanley Place fully engulfed in flames.

Emergency crews extinguished the fire, which was believed to be the result of arson. A search of the vehicle by the Union County Sheriff's Identification Unit and Arson Task Force found several live rounds of ammunition near the car's passenger door. The vehicle was later towed to police headquarters.

Investigators say the shooters intended targets appear to have been two males who were at the scene but both remain unidentified at this time. Police say despite increased police presence, trepidation between the Libside and West Third Street gang sets appears to be escalating.

"They don't seem to care," said city Public Safety Director Martin Hellwig. "We've been trying to keep the peace down there, because there's certainly been some things brewing."

According to Hellwig, the feud has been simmering since the beginning of the new year. The violence between the two gangs appears to be escalating at the expense of innocent bystanders, which has forced police to develop an aggressive operational strategy to address the issue.

The three West End housing complexes, Elmwood Gardens, Liberty Village and the nearby West End Gardens, are all managed by the Housing Authority of Plainfield, and have become the nucleus of gang activity for years, but officials said residents, understandably reluctant to speak for fear of retaliation from gangs, hamper efforts.

Anyone with information on either of these shootings is asked to call Plainfield Police Detectives Edwin Maldonado or Nash Brown at 908-753-3415 or Detective Eugene Goldston at 908-753-3531. All calls will remain confidential.

Article #12310

NOTE: Story was taken down during the day.  Below is text of email I sent to NJ Newsroom folks on 5/21/2010 -- Dan

Good morning,

NJ Newsroom ran a story yesterday AM on recent gang activity in Plainfield.

I aggregate links to news stories of interest to Plainfield readers on my blog CLIPS, and posted a link to the story in my usual fashion.

As I scanned the item preparatory to putting up a link, it seemed very similar to my recollection of the Courier News item "Three injured in Plainfield shootings as gang feud escalates" of 5/17/2010, and I put a link to their story alongside the one to yours. (The story was actually broken on my local news blog, Plainfield Today, early Monday AM as part of a roundup of police news --
"3 shot over weekend, pedestrian struck, plus unremarked bias incident")

I was told by someone yesterday afternoon that your story had been taken down, and that Plainfield police director Martin Hellwig had confirmed that no one from NJ Newsroom had contacted him about the story, though there was a direct quote in your piece.

As a news junkie (and retired public information officer for the City of Plainfield), I have had the highest regard for NJ Newsroom since its inception and admire both the news stories and the wide variety of opinions expressed on issues of concern to New Jerseyans.

This experience, however, has left me feeling uneasy. In print media, there might be a correction or a small notice about what had gone awry. Scanning your site, I don't find somewhere that a reader could turn for clarifications or corrections or admissions that a mistake or ethical lapse had been made.

I hope you will consider a little 'corner' for such, so that your deservedly good reputation will remain of the highest order.

Dan Damon
Dan Damon

The needler in the haystack

Where Plainfield turns for news

Our lives begin to end when we are silent about things that matter.
--- Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

About Me

Plainfield resident since 1983. Retired as the city's Public Information Officer in 2006; prior to that Community Programs Coordinator for the Plainfield Public Library. Founding member and past president of: Faith, Bricks & Mortar; Residents Supporting Victorian Plainfield; and PCO (the outreach nonprofit of Grace Episcopal Church). Supporter of the Library, Symphony and Historic Society as well as other community groups, and active in Democratic politics.