Authorities in New Jersey arrest mass shooting suspect ‘hellbent on inflicting harm' at birthday party

nj
Source: Cumberland County jail; MEGA

May. 24 2021, Published 1:32 p.m. ET

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Police in New Jersey investigating a deadly mass shooting at a massive birthday party attended by hundreds of people have made an arrest and are trying to formulate a possible motive for the crime.

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On May 22 at around 11:50 p.m., gunshots rang out at the 1990s-themed event held in Bridgeton, Fairfield Township. 

“I just started hearing at first what I thought was fireworks. It was really gunshots, and I heard nine in rapid succession,” Rev. Michael Keene told Philadelphia’s WPVI-TV.

The suspect allegedly came out of the woods and began shooting, according to the station.

“We started seeing cops flying down the road, state troopers coming down this way, helicopters in the air and I'm like, 'This is nuts, man,’” neighbor Joeron Pierce recalled. 

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Authorities announced at a May 24 press conference that they have taken 36-year-old Kevin K. Dawkins into custody and charged him with unlawful possession of a weapon and possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose.

Cumberland County Prosecutor Jennifer Webb-McRae said law enforcement officials are “still putting pieces together” and trying to figure out why Dawkins allegedly targeted the party..

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Two Bridgeton residents lost their lives in the fatal attack: Kevin Elliott, 30, and 25-year-old Asia Hester. A dozen people ranging in age from 19 to 35 were wounded by gunfire, one critically.

“This was a birthday party. A birthday party is supposed to be a joyous event, not a target for those hellbent on inflicting harm on a community,” New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy said, according to WPVI-TV

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John Fuqua said his nephew’s friend was among the shooting victims. “He was running for his life. He got on the ground, he had to crawl,” Fuqua said. “It wasn't a shooting gallery, it wasn't a hunting expedition, it was a party and a few bad apples chose to turn it into something else.”

Anyone with information on the shooting are asked to contact New Jersey State Police at 856-451-0101 or submit a tip to the Cumberland County Prosecutor's Office.

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