3rd victim dies in New Jersey mass shooting, 2nd arrest made
A third victim has died after gunfire erupted at a house party in Fairfield Township, New Jersey over the weekend. Police have also made a second arrest in connection with the case.
New Jersey State Police announced on Tuesday that 19-year-old Braylin Holmes, of Millville, succumbed to her injuries on Monday night after being shot while at the party.
The rapid gunfire started around 11:50 p.m. Sunday at a home on Commerce Street in Fairfield Township, according to police.
Also on Tuesday, state police announced a second arrest in this case. Darrell Dawkins, 30, of Bridgeton was charged with numerous weapons offenses. Police say it does not appear he was the gunman.
On Monday, Kevin Dawkins, 36, was charged with unlawful possession of a weapon and possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose in connection with the shooting. Police have not said what his connection to the case may be.
Investigators have also not revealed whether the men were related.
The two other victims killed in the shooting have been identified as Kevin Elliott, 30, and Asia Hester, 25.
Investigators say someone emerged from the woods and started firing.
Pictured: 25-year-old Asia Hester and 30-year-old Kevin Elliott
Neighbors said they heard popping noises that sounded like fireworks.
“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,'” recalled Joeron Pierce, who lives nearby.
Chopper video showed the aftermath on Sunday morning. A tent that appeared to have been knocked over was on the ground. Debris was scattered around the yard.
During a press conference on Monday, New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal called the shooting a targeted attack. No further details about a possible motive were released.
Multiple firearms and shell casings were recovered from the scene, Grewal said. He added that the state will be working with federal partners to determine where the guns originated from and whether they can be linked to other recent acts of violence in the area.
“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,” said Gov. Phil Murphy.
Tiffany Kowalchick worked with Hester at the Jefferson Health in Washington Township.
“She would selflessly travel all the way from Bridgeton to Washington Township to work with the sick and elderly… She would clean and bath them as if they were her own family. Asia truly had a heart of gold,” said Kowalchick in a statement to Action News.
Cumberland County Prosecutor Jennifer Webb-McRae said it is estimated that several hundred people were at the party.
Webb-McRae said the wounded victims ranged in age from 19 to 35, included both men and women, and all were residents of Cumberland County.
John Fuqua, of the Life Worth Living organization, said his nephew’s friend was among those who were shot.
“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.”
Rev. Michael Keene of the Trinity AME Church heard the gunfire. The church that sits right across the street from the shooting scene.
“I just started hearing at first what I thought was fireworks, it was really gunshots, and I heard nine in rapid succession,” said Rev. Keene.
Community leaders said the gathering was a 90s-themed birthday party and was attended mostly by young people.
“We have a lot of challenges in this community and we’ve had a lot of tragedies,” said Melissa Helmbrecht of the HopeLoft Community Center.
Helmbrecht said the partygoers were excited about the warm weather and opportunity to get together.
“I’m just worried for our friends, our family, our employees. Over the coming days we’re going to have a lot of pieces to put back together,” she said.
“If you’re going to a party, why do you need to take a gun?” asked Keene. “If you’re there to have a good time, why do you need a gun with you? That means you’re expecting trouble to me.”
Fuqua said it will take the efforts of the entire community to help.
“This ain’t a sit back on the sideline and watch activity, this is about boots on the ground. You’ve got to get on the floor, you’ve got to get your knees a little bit dirty if we want to clean up our community,” Fuqua said.
Any attendees with information are asked to contact New Jersey State Police at 856-451-0101 or submit a tip to the Cumberland County Prosecutor’s Ofice at njccpo.org/tips