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TRENTON – Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal announced that 14 defendants were indicted today by a state grand jury in connection with the shooting of a New Jersey State Trooper last year in Pittsgrove.
Najzeir “Naz” Hutchings 22, Kareen “Kai” Warner, 20, and Tremaine Hadden, 28, all of Bridgeton, N.J., were each indicted today on charges including, among others, Attempted Murder (1st Degree) and Aggravated Assault (2nd Degree). Eleven other defendants were indicted on various charges.
The indictment stems from an investigation by the Office of Public Integrity and Accountability (OPIA) and New Jersey State Police into the shooting of State Police Detective Richard Hershey. It is alleged that the defendants were part of a five-car caravan that went to the Harding Woods mobile home park in Pittsgrove, Salem County, on the evening of Saturday, April 25, 2020, intending to attack and injure a resident there and damage her home. Members of the caravan were armed with at least two handguns, one knife, and one bottle, and Hutchings, Warner, and Hadden allegedly fired upon Detective Hershey. Detective Hershey was struck by one bullet during this encounter.
Detective Hershey discharged his weapon during the incident, and his use of force is the subject of a separate investigation under Directive 2019-4, the “Independent Prosecutor Directive,” issued by Attorney General Grewal in 2019.
“Detective Hershey was courageously responding to a dangerous situation in the midst of the COVID pandemic when he was shot in an ambush,” said Attorney General Grewal. “I promised at the outset of this investigation to bring all of those responsible to justice. As I said at the time, we won’t tolerate mob violence and we certainly won’t tolerate an attempt to murder a police officer.”
“This indictment is an important step in our efforts to hold all responsible who took part in this violent incident in which Detective Hershey was shot,” said Executive Director Thomas Eicher of the Office of Public Integrity and Accountability. “I commend all of the detectives and attorneys who conducted this investigation and presented this indictment to the state grand jury.”
“The brazen ambush attack of Detective Richard Hershey was a violent assault that put the lives of innocent bystanders in jeopardy. Detective Hershey stood his ground under a barrage of gunfire and his actions undoubtedly prevented this assault from becoming a mass casualty incident,” said Colonel Patrick J. Callahan, Superintendent of the New Jersey State Police. “We never relented in our pursuit to hold these individuals accountable for their cowardly actions. These indictments send a clear message that attempted murder of a police officer will be met with swift justice.”
Hutchings, Warner, Hadden and Colby Opperman, 19, of Bridgeton, N.J., are charged in the indictment with Unlawful Possession of a Weapon (2nd degree), and Hutchings, Hadden, and Warner are charged with Possession of a Weapon for an Unlawful Purpose (2nd degree).
Ashley Acevedo-Diaz 23, of Bridgeton, N.J., is charged with Possession of a Weapon for an Unlawful Purpose (3rd Degree) and Unlawful Possession of a Weapon (4th Degree). Melissa Romero 23, of Bridgeton, N.J., is charged with Conspiracy to Unlawfully Possess a Weapon (2nd Degree).
Hutchings, Warner, Hadden, Opperman, Acevedo-Diaz, Romero, Shakeem Waters, 32, of Bridgeton, N.J., Noel Lazu, 21, of Bridgeton, N.J., Thomas Nieves, 31, of Bridgeton, N.J., Markese Rogers, 26, of Pittsgrove, N.J., Chayana Diaz, 23, of Bridgeton, N.J., Rovell Mcarthur, 27, of Vineland, N.J., Aisha Mcarthur, 26, of Vineland, N.J., and Jenislen Quiles, 21, of Bridgeton, N.J., are charged in the indictment with Conspiracy to Commit Aggravated Assault (2rd Degree) and Riot (3rd Degree). Hadden faces an additional charge of Possession of a Weapon by a Convicted Felon (2nd Degree).
Imari Lazu, 23, of Bridgeton, N.J., who was charged previously in this incident, pleaded guilty this morning to Conspiracy to Commit Witness Tampering (2nd Degree). Under the plea agreement, the state will recommend that she be sentenced to three years in state prison.
Hutchings, Warner, and Hadden allegedly opened fire on Detective Hershey at approximately 10:40 p.m. Saturday, April 25, 2020 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.
The case was presented to the state grand jury by Deputy Attorneys General Rachael Weeks and Abigail R. Holmes, under the supervision of Deputy Attorney General Debra Conrad, who is Deputy Chief of the OPIA Integrity Bureau, Director Carolyn Murray, and OPIA Executive Director Eicher.
The shooting investigation was conducted by the Office of Public Integrity and Accountability, Division of Criminal Justice, and 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 and the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
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. Possession of a weapon as a convicted felon 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 3 ½ 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, while fourth-degree crimes carry a sentence of up to eighteen months in prison and a fine up to $10,000.
The indictment is merely an accusation and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty in a court of law.
For Hutchings: Jeffrey S. Hark, Esq.
For Warner: Joseph D. Lento, Esq.
For Hadden: Ronald B. Thompson, Esq.
For Opperman: David R. Branco, Esq.
For Waters: Robert C. Wolf, Esq.
For Acevedo-Diaz: Al Wheeler, Esq.
For Imari Lazu: Margeau J. Ney, Esq.
For Noel Lazu: Amanda H. Mazzoni, Esq.
For Romero: James Joseph Leonard, Esq.
For Nieves: Albert W. Allison, Esq.
For Rogers: Terry B. Stomel, Esq.
For Diaz: Matthew W. Portella, Esq.
For Rovell McArthur: Wayne Powell, Esq.
For Aisha McArthur: Justin Loughry, Esq.
For Quiles: John P. Morris, Esq.