TRENTON – Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal and New Jersey State Police Superintendent Colonel Patrick J. Callahan today announced that a third man has been charged with attempted murder in the shooting of a New Jersey State Trooper on the evening of Saturday, April 25, in Pittsgrove, N.J.
Kareen "Kai" Warner Jr., 19, of Bridgeton, N.J. – who was arrested on April 26 and charged with second-degree unlawful possession of a weapon in connection with the shooting – was charged today with being a third shooter who fired at Detective Richard Hershey. A new complaint was filed today charging Warner with attempted murder (1st degree), aggravated assault on a police officer (2nd degree), and possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose (2nd degree). A detention hearing was held this afternoon for Warner and he was ordered detained in the Salem County Jail pending trial.
Two other men alleged to have fired upon Detective Hershey were previously arrested and charged with attempted murder, aggravated assault on a police officer, and weapons offenses:
- Najzeir “Naz” Hutchings, 21, of Bridgeton, N.J., and
- Tremaine M. Hadden, 27, of Bridgeton, N.J.
They remain in custody. A fourth defendant, Colby Opperman, 18, of Bridgeton, N.J., was arrested and charged with unlawful possession of a weapon. He was ordered detained pending trial. Hutchings and Hadden are scheduled for detention hearings tomorrow. The men were charged in an investigation by the New Jersey State Police and Attorney General’s Office of Public Integrity and Accountability.
“We are delivering on our promise to hold all perpetrators fully accountable for this cowardly ambush of a New Jersey State Trooper, who was gunned down while courageously investigating a violent crime in the midst of this pandemic,” said Attorney General Grewal. “We will follow every lead in our pursuit of justice in this case. Our police officers put their lives on the line each day to protect us, and we owe it to them to bring the full weight of the law to bear on anyone who would attempt to kill them.”
“We will follow the path of this investigation to the end, and we will leave no stone unturned in our pursuit of the individuals who attempted to murder New Jersey State Trooper Detective Richard Hershey,” said Colonel Patrick J. Callahan, Superintendent of the New Jersey State Police. “Anyone willing to fire a gun at a law enforcement officer has no regard for law and order and no regard for human life. We have an obligation to all members of law enforcement and the citizens we are sworn to protect to ensure that these dangerous individuals are brought to justice.”
“By allegedly opening fire on a law enforcement officer and seriously wounding him, defendants Warner, Hutchings and Hadden demonstrated that they have no respect for the law, for law enforcement, or for human life,” said Director Thomas Eicher of the Office of Public Integrity and Accountability. “We contend that they are very dangerous men who should remain behind bars, where they cannot threaten the lives of our officers or others in our communities. Our investigation is very much ongoing, and we intend to ensure that all who participated in this brutal crime face justice.”
Warner, Hutchings and Hadden allegedly opened fire on Detective Hershey at approximately 10:40 p.m. Saturday, April 25, at the Harding Woods mobile home park on Harding Highway in Pittsgrove. At the time, Detective Hershey was investigating a home invasion that took place at the mobile home park several hours earlier in which a woman was beaten and robbed. The three defendants were part of a group – linked to the assailants in the home invasion – who arrived in a caravan of five vehicles.
Several members of the caravan exited their vehicles and confronted Detective Hershey, who identified himself as a law enforcement officer and issued commands in an effort to control the hostile mob. Hutchings and Warner allegedly fired at Detective Hershey from one vehicle, and Hadden allegedly fired at him from another vehicle.
Detective Hershey was struck in the upper leg and seriously wounded. He returned fire with his service weapon and the suspects fled the scene. Detective Hershey was transported to Cooper University Hospital in Camden, where he underwent surgery. He is recovering and is in stable condition.
One of the members of the caravan, who is not charged in this case, was also injured during the gunfire. She suffered a wound to her leg, was treated at the hospital, and was later released.
The home invasion took place at approximately 6:15 p.m. on April 25 in the Harding Woods mobile home park. Five women – later identified as Jazmin Valentin, 32, Yomari Lazu, 43, Iramari Lazu, 22, and Mayra Roblero, 52, all of Bridgeton, and Maria Betancourt, 39, of Vineland – allegedly forced entry into the home of a woman who lived in the mobile home park, assaulted her, and stole her iPhone. The victim suffered a broken rib and lacerated lung. The alleged assailants were arrested on April 26 and charged with first-degree robbery, second-degree aggravated assault, second-degree conspiracy to commit robbery, third-degree burglary, and third-degree conspiracy to commit burglary.
Detention hearings were held today for those five women. Yomari Lazu and Iramari Lazu were ordered detained pending trial, and the other women were released subject to conditions.
The home invasion was investigated by the New Jersey State Police and the Salem County Prosecutor’s Office. The shooting investigation was conducted by the Office of Public Integrity and Accountability and the New Jersey State Police, specifically the Major Crime Unit South, Troop “A” Criminal Investigation Office, Crime Scene Investigation Unit and Cold Case Unit of the New Jersey State Police. Arrests were made by the New Jersey State Police Fugitive and TEAMS Units. Assistance was provided by the U.S. Marshals Service NY/NJ Regional Fugitive Task Force, under the direction of U.S. Marshal Juan Mattos, Jr. and the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Charlie J. Patterson.
First-degree attempted murder carries a sentence of 10 to 20 years in prison, with a period of parole ineligibility equal to 85 percent of the sentence imposed, and a fine of up to $200,000. Second-degree crimes carry a sentence of five to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $150,000. Hadden is charged with second-degree possession of a weapon as a convicted felon, which carries a mandatory minimum term of five years without parole. Unlawful possession of a weapon carries a mandatory term of parole ineligibility equal to one-third to one-half of the sentence imposed or three years, whichever is greater. Third-degree crimes carry a sentence of three to five years in prison and a fine of up to $15,000.
The charges are merely accusations and the defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty.