Township homicide instead attributed to Orange’s tally

IRVINGTON, NJ — Irvington seemed in danger of suffering its fifth homicide of the year on Friday, Aug. 17, but thanks to good police work by the Public Safety Department, that was not the case.

On Friday, Aug. 17, acting Essex County Prosecutor Robert D. Laurino and Irvington Police Public Safety Director Tracy Bowers announced the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office Homicide and Major Crimes Task Force is investigating the fatal shooting of Shafequa Cooper, 38, of Irvington. During the initial investigation, Bowers said evidence revealed Cooper had been killed in Orange Township and her body dumped in Irvington.

“Turned out to be an Orange job,” said Bowers on Monday, Aug. 20.

On Tuesday, Aug. 21, Laurino and Bowers announced that Cooper’s body was discovered on Krotik Place on Friday, Aug. 17.

“The woman’s body was discovered by a motorist at approximately 8:55 a.m., suffering from what appeared to be gunshot wounds,” said Laurino on Tuesday, Aug. 21. “The investigation is active and ongoing. The motive is unclear and no suspects have been identified at this time.”

Cooper’s homicide will be counted in Orange instead of Irvington, which still only has four homicides so far this year.

“It happened in Orange, but they dumped the body in Irvington off Chancellor Avenue and Krokit Place, on the side of the old Irvington General Hospital site that’s not developed yet. No one hangs out on Chancellor and Krokit,” said Mayor Tony Vauss on Monday, Aug. 20. “It’s Orange, not us. That’s the second time that they have dumped a body in Irvington of a person that was killed somewhere else. It’s still sad that somebody lost their life.”

It also means Irvington’s streak of summers without homicides is intact.

“If we make it out this summer, this will be three years in a row without a homicide in the summer,” the mayor said. “We got a total of four for the year, so far. We had a couple near our borders, but it’s where you actually died at where the crime took place that counts, when it comes to police and the authorities. People get shot in Newark or one of the other municipalities that we share a border with, then run into Irvington and die. It’s where the person expires.”

Vauss’ predecessor, former Mayor Wayne Smith, coined the phrase “summer spike” to describe the annual increase in crime when the temperature increases, the weather gets better and the public schools close for two months. Prior to 2014, township officials never specifically implemented a policing strategy specifically to address the “summer spike.”

When Vauss became mayor and tapped Bowers as his police director and then as public safety director, they implemented Irvington’s Summer Policing Plan to deal with the “summer spike.” It has been a success in the last four years and they plan to carry that progress through the current summer.

“We’re looking to have three consecutive years of no homicides during the summer months,” said Vauss on Monday, July 16. “We got a total of four for the year. You can’t do anything about domestics. People get to arguing and fighting in their houses and someone winds up dead.”

In 2016, township and county officials said Irvington only had four homicides, although it didn’t register its first homicide until May and, afterward, the town went another five months before the next three, which all occurred in October.

There were a total of six homicides in Irvington in 2017. According to the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office and Bowers, these included: Tajmiah Philips, 31, of Newark, on Saturday, Feb. 25; Dino Bermudez, 33, of Newark, on Sunday, May 14; Jawad R. Smith, 22, of Newark, on Saturday, May 27; Israel L. Washington, 45, of Newark, on Monday, Oct. 23; Marco Angamarca-Yupa, 29, of Irvington, on Monday, Dec. 4; and Ahmad J. Carson, 33, of Newark, on Saturday, Dec. 9.

According to Bowers and Laurino, the investigation of the Aug. 17 homicide on Friday, “is active and ongoing. Additional information will be released as it becomes available.”