Right before election, Orange sees 2 homicides in 4 days

ORANGE, N.J. — Orange is reeling from two homicides and a spate of shootings in a four-day period.

“Shortly after 9:30 p.m. on Thursday, April 14, Orange police officers were dispatched to the 100 block of Taylor Street on reports of a shooting in progress,” said acting Essex County Prosecutor Carolyn A. Murray on Thursday, April 14. “Arriving officers located the youth, who was suffering from an apparent gunshot wound, and he was rushed to University Hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 10:10 p.m. The victim has been identified as Davon Jones, age 17, of Orange.”

Chief Assistant Prosecutor Thomas S. Fennelly of the Prosecutor’s Homicide Unit said three additional males, all suffering from non-life-threatening gunshot wounds, were also located and treated at area hospitals on Thursday, April 14. He said, “This incident is being investigated by the Essex County Prosecutor’s Major Crimes Task Force. The investigation is active and ongoing at this time.”

On Monday, April 18, Murray and Orange police Director John Wade announced the Orange Police Department and the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office Homicide-Major Crimes Task Force are investigating that fatal shooting of Jordan Bryan, 23, of Orange.

“Bryan was fatally shot in the 400 block of Cary Street,” said Murray on Monday, April 18. “He was pronounced dead at the scene at 8:05 p.m. At this time, no arrests have been made. The investigation is active and ongoing.”

Although Mayor Dwayne Warren did not respond to requests for a comment about the recent spate of violence by press time this week, his opponents in the nonpartisan municipal election on Tuesday, May 10, were quick to question public safety assurances in the wake of the homicides.

“It’s clear crime has grown increasingly more violent in Orange,” said East Ward Councilman and 2016 mayoral candidate Kerry Coley, who is also a retired Orange police officer. “It’s a tragedy for the family and really shakes the foundation of the quality of life in Orange we once knew. Our prayers are with the family and friends of the victims at this time.”

Former Zoning Board member and 2016 mayoral candidate Janice Morrell said the latest homicides have concerned law-abiding citizens wondering whether Orange is a city under siege. She said they also highlight the Warren administration’s failure to make the city safer since he was sworn into office four years ago.

Morrell said the Warren administration’s public safety failings are highlighted by the fact the mayor’s brother, Todd Warren, is the city’s civilian police director.

“Are we becoming a city under siege?” asked Morrell on Monday, April 18. “Is this due to hiring unqualified family members and friends? The time to act has passed. We need to respond as if this is an emergency. One life lost is one life too many. These are our children, our neighbors and our friends. The entire city of Orange is being affected.”

Morrell said, “My heart goes out to the families affected by these shootings and homicides.” She said any loss of life is tragic, even more when city leaders have repeatedly failed to address public safety issues, as well as underlying social and economic factors that contribute to crime.

“This is happening while grants still exist to hire additional police officers, which should be reviewed and applied for as quickly as possible, before this reaches epidemic proportions,” said Morrell. “A plan of action is necessary now, based on the recent shootings and homicides. We need to ask our police officers for suggested solutions. In addition, external assistance is needed, due to our diminished number of police officers.”

Morrell said the Warren administration “should be requesting said help from federal and state police departments and agencies, to work with our public safety department to develop an immediate, short- and long-range plans to address policing concerns.”

“Not only are residents at risk but, with each passing day of understaffing, our officers’ risks increase,” said Morrell. “We need to address the needs of both our police and our community. Furthermore, we sorely need services including intervention and job readiness and training programs for at risk young adults. Also, a multifaceted approach to address systemic issues confronting the at-risk youth in our city.”

“The recent shootings in the city of Orange have hurt many of us to the core of our existence,” said Orange City Council Vice President Elroy Corbitt on Tuesday, April 19. “We wonder what must we do to stop gun violence. I tell people every chance I get how difficult it is to stop gun violence. I wish there was a method in which we install metal detectors on every block in town that would alert police headquarters or officers as they patrol the city. I know it’s wishful thinking, but that would help solve the problem.”

But Corbitt, who is also chairman of the council’s Public Safety Committee, said that since that is impossible Orange residents will have to fall back on personal responsibility, accountability and cooperation, which have served black and other minority communities in the past. Public safety has been a big part of Corbitt’s agenda during his time on council; he is running for a third consecutive council term in the nonpartisan election on Tuesday, May 10.

“Oftentimes, people blame police for the gun violence and ask, ‘Where were the police?’ when a shooting occurs,” said Corbitt. “Fortunately, the police are not the blame. It’s not the police who are putting the guns in the hands of these individuals. I personally believe we, as mothers and fathers, have failed in raising our families and instilling core values and expressing the value of life.”