Homicide of EO teacher prompts mayor to reschedule NNO 2018 plans

EAST ORANGE, NJ — East Orange Mayor Ted Green originally planned to ride a bicycle instead of traveling in a public motorcade composed of police, fire and emergency service personnel, to put a new twist on the city’s National Night Out tradition Tuesday, Aug. 7. The motorcade usually visits cookouts, block parties and other events organized by block associations and neighborhood watch groups.

“This will be my first year participating in the motorcade and leading it as the mayor of the city of East Orange,” said Green on Tuesday, July 31. “I’m going to be on the police bike.”

But Green’s plans changed Friday, Aug. 3, after news broke of the shooting death of S.T.E.M. Academy teacher Kofi Owens, 45, of Newark. According to acting Essex County Prosecutor Robert D. Laurino and East Orange Police Chief Phyllis Bindi, Owens was fatally shot on South 16th Street in the early morning hours of Friday, Aug. 3.

Later that day, Laurino and Bindi announced the East Orange Police Department and the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office Homicide-Major Crimes Task Force are investigating the homicide.

“At approximately 1 a.m. today Kofi A. Owens, 45, of Newark was fatally shot on South 16th Street in East Orange,” said Laurino. “A second man was also shot, but survived. He is in stable condition. His name is not being released at this time.”

Laurino went on to note that Owens was a teacher at S.T.E.M. Academy in East Orange. However, he didn’t have any information about the investigation or possible motives.

“Owens was pronounced dead at the scene at 1:18 a.m.,” said Laurino on Friday, Aug. 3. “The investigation is active and ongoing. No arrests have been made at this time.”

“I am extremely saddened to learn of the tragic death of Kofi Owens, a beloved and well-respected teacher and mentor in our East Orange School District,” said Green on Friday, Aug. 3. “My deepest sympathy goes out to his family and all of those who will feel the loss throughout our community. This type of violence will not be tolerated in our city and we are working aggressively with all law enforcement agencies to ensure that those responsible are swiftly brought to justice, using every means necessary.”

After Green heard about Owens’ death, he switched gears on his NNO agenda and opted to attend a special candlelight vigil for Owens scheduled for Tuesday, Aug. 7, at 8 p.m. at the school on Renshaw Avenue, in the old Clifford J. Scott High School building on Parkway Drive East.

“I invite the entire community to come out and participate in a candlelight vigil honoring the legacy of Kofi Owens,” said Green on Monday, Aug. 6.

Essex County Sheriff Armando Fontoura said the Crime Stoppers Program is offering as much as $10,000 for information leading to an arrest and conviction of the person or persons responsible for the fatal shooting of Owens. Anyone with information about the homicide is urged to contact the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office tips line at 877-847-7432.