After body is dumped in Irvington, homicide is traced back to Orange

IRVINGTON, NJ — According to the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office and authorities in Irvington, Orange suffered its third homicide of the year, after police determined that a woman found on Krokit Place in Irvington on Friday, Aug. 17, had actually been killed in Orange, then dumped there.

The victim has been identified as Shafequa Cooper, 38, of Irvington. On Tuesday, Aug. 21, acting Essex County Prosecutor Robert D. Laurino and Irvington Police Director Tracy Bowers announced: “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.”

“Turned out to be an Orange job,” said Irvington Public Safety Director Tracy Bowers on Monday, Aug. 20.

Therefore, Cooper’s homicide will be counted in Orange instead of Irvington.

According to the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office, Orange previously suffered two homicides this year — one on Sunday, May 13, the other on Monday, May 28 — however, there were no official public announcements about either by county officials.

In reference to the victim of the first homicide, Raymond White, 32, of Orange, Essex County Prosecutor’s Office Director of Public Information Katherine Carter said Tuesday, June 5, “There may have been some confusion because the victim did not die right away. He was shot at 1:13 p.m. and died at 10:06 p.m. on Mother’s Day.”

Prior to Carter’s confirmation, the only people in Orange who seemed to know anything about this homicide on Oakwood Place were residents of that street and nearby Wilson Place, as well as Orange police officers and firefighters who responded to the incident. The same was true for the second homicide on Park Avenue.

With regard to the second homicide victim, Neil Meyers, 23, of Irvington, Essex County Prosecutor’s Office Chief Assistant Prosecutor Thomas Fennelly said Wednesday, June 13, “There was a homicide in Orange on May 28. The Orange Police Department is assisting the Prosecutor’s Office in the investigation, so I don’t understand why the Orange Police Department is telling you that the incident is unreported or unacknowledged. A male victim was shot while he was riding a motorcycle on Park Avenue. The victim was pronounced dead a short time later at University Hospital.”

Irvington and Orange were again linked by the homicide Friday, Aug. 17.

“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 Irvington 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.”

According to Bowers and Laurino, the most recent homicide was also apparently the result of a shooting.

The Essex County Prosecutor’s Office usually handles all homicides in any municipality in Essex County, regardless of individual departmental jurisdiction, generally in conjunction with local law enforcement.

The public has noticed the spate of killings in Orange in the last few years.

“It’s like they’re trying to keep a lid on what’s really going on out here in these streets everyday, but they can’t, because regular people are around when they happen and they go and tell other people about it,” said Reggie Miller, coordinator of the Rutgers University Male Student Support Program at Orange Preparatory Academy, on Thursday, June 2. “Right now, that’s what Orange is known for, because of all these shootings and homicides. It’s so prevalent now that it’s weird. And that’s just the statistics speaking.”

“Essex County is really the four cities, Orange, East Orange, Irvington and Newark, where it’s going down,” said Miller. “So you can’t tell me these four cities that take up about 25 square miles or 20 square miles is capable of one-third of all the murders in this state, so I said I’ve got to do something about it.”

Bowers agreed with Miller.

“Public safety is an all-hands-on-deck operation,” said Bowers on Monday, June 4. “Any and all stakeholder participation is welcome, because all of our destinies and safety (are) tied to each other’s. So the collaboration with police and community and all who want good is welcomed. In terms of gun violence, we must talk about it to successfully eradicate it.”

Orange Police Director Todd Warren and Mayor Dwayne Warren did not respond to requests for comments about the recent homicide by press time this week.