Arts festival on verge of shutdown before shootings occurred


Associated Press

TRENTON, N.J.

Gunmen opened fire at an all-night arts and music festival early Sunday, sending people running over each other in the scramble to safety, authorities said. One suspect was killed and 22 people, including two suspects, were injured.

Of 17 people treated for gunshot wounds, four of them, including a 13-year-old boy, were critically injured but three had been upgraded to stable by evening, leaving only one man believed to be a suspect in critical condition, Mercer County Prosecutor Angelo Onofri.

The shots rang out around 2:45 a.m. Sunday as an estimated 1,000 or more people were attending the Art All Night Trenton festival that showcases local art, music, food and films.

Onofri said numerous fights inside and outside had prompted police to tell organizers the event needed to be shut down because “there was a report that the mood inside the venue had been changing.” Organizers were in the process of doing that when the shooting started, he said.

Authorities believe several neighborhood gangs had a dispute at the venue, and multiple suspects began shooting at one another, with police returning fire, Onofri said.

Tahaij Wells, 33, the suspect who was killed, had recently been released from prison and was on parole since February on homicide-related charges, Onofri said. Amir Armstrong, 23, listed in stable condition, was charged with a weapons offense.

The remainder of the two-day festival has been canceled.

Trenton Mayor Eric E. Jackson said the violence can’t be “discarded as just random violence; this is a public health issue.”

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