TRENTON – Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal and New Jersey State Police Superintendent Colonel Patrick J. Callahan today announced arrests and charges involving 10 new defendants who allegedly were part of the hostile mob that confronted and shot a New Jersey State Trooper on the evening of Saturday, April 25, in Pittsgrove, N.J.
The following persons were arrested this morning by the New Jersey State Police, with the exception of Waters, who is being sought on an arrest warrant. All 10 were charged by the Office of Public Integrity and Accountability with conspiracy to commit aggravated assault (2nd degree) and rioting (3rd degree).
Ashley Diaz-Acevedo, 22, of Bridgeton, N.J.
- Melissa Romero, 22, of Bridgeton, N.J.
- Noel Lazu, 20, of Bridgeton, N.J.
- Markese Rogers, 25, of Pittsgrove, N.J.
- Aisha McArthur, 25, of Vineland, N.J.
- Rovell L. McArthur Jr., 26, of Vineland, N.J.
- Jenislen Quiles, 19, of Bridgeton, N.J.
- Shakeem Waters, 31, of Bridgeton, N.J.
- Thomas Nieves III, 30, of Bridgeton, N.J.
- Chayana Diaz, 22, of Bridgeton, N.J.
It is alleged that these defendants were part of a five-car caravan that went to the Harding Woods mobile home park in Pittsgrove intending to attack and injure a resident there and damage her home. Members of the caravan – including additional defendants charged previously – were armed with at least two handguns, one knife, and one bottle, and at least three fired upon Detective Richard Hershey.
“The members of this lawless caravan were armed and bent on violence when they arrived late at night at the mobile home park, and when Detective Hershey prevented them from attacking their intended victim, at least three caravan members allegedly opened fired on him from their vehicles,” said Attorney General Grewal. “The courage of this trooper was met with a cowardly ambush. We promised at the outset of this investigation to charge all of those responsible, and we are fulfilling that promise. We won’t tolerate mob violence and we certainly won’t tolerate an attempt to murder a police officer.”
"We made a promise to our citizens and fellow law enforcement officers that we would apprehend every last member of the cowardly mob that nearly killed Detective Richard Hershey, and I am pleased to announce today that we are making good on that promise,” said Colonel Patrick J. Callahan, Superintendent of the New Jersey State Police. “We will not rest until every suspect is brought to justice and held accountable for their actions.”
“We now have charged a total of 19 defendants, including 14 charged as members of the violent caravan that shot Detective Hershey, and five women charged by the Salem County Prosecutor’s Office in the prior home invasion, including one who also was part of the caravan,” said Director Thomas Eicher of the Office of Public Integrity and Accountability. “Justice and public safety demanded that we identify and arrest all of those responsible for these violent attacks, and we are doing just that. I commend all of the detectives and attorneys who have worked diligently to achieve these results.”
Two of the newly charged defendants, Ashley Acevedo-Diaz and Melissa Romero, are also charged with weapons offenses. Acevedo-Diaz, who allegedly was armed with a knife during the incident, is charged with third-degree possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose and fourth-degree unlawful possession of a weapon. Romero is charged with conspiracy to unlawfully possess a weapon and conspiracy to possess a weapon for an unlawful purpose for allegedly instructing one of the alleged shooters, Najzeir Hutchings, to bring a handgun to the planned altercation.
The following three men who allegedly fired upon Detective Hershey were previously arrested and charged with first-degree attempted murder, second-degree aggravated assault on a police officer, and second-degree weapons offenses:
- Najzeir “Naz” Hutchings, 21, of Bridgeton, N.J.,
- Tremaine M. Hadden, 27, of Bridgeton, N.J., and
- Kareen "Kai" Warner Jr., 19, of Bridgeton, N.J.
A fourth man, Colby Opperman, 18, of Bridgeton, N.J., was previously arrested and charged with second-degree unlawful possession of a weapon. Hutchings, Warner, and Opperman were ordered detained in the Salem County Jail pending trial. Hadden is in custody awaiting a detention hearing.
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.
While Detective Hershey was conducting the investigation, a hostile mob of 15 people linked to the assailants in the home invasion arrived in a caravan of five vehicles. Some 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 intruders. 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 was released from the hospital this week.
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.
Iramari Lazu allegedly was also a member of the caravan. Iramari Lazu and Yomari Lazu were ordered detained pending trial and the other three women were released with conditions after detention hearings.
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.
The home invasion was investigated by the New Jersey State Police and the Salem County Prosecutor’s Office.
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.