Michael Amon

Five People Are Shot in a Newark Home

Posted in Uncategorized by michaelamon on December 8, 2006

Sept. 3, 2006 p. B3
Teenagers are among the three killed
Michael Amon and Manny Fernandez

NEWARK — Firefighters working their way through a burning house here early Saturday morning made a gruesome discovery: the bodies of a 42-year-old woman and two teenagers who had been shot to death, the authorities said. Two other people were shot but survived.

The three bodies were discovered about 4:30 a.m. in a cream-colored house at 546 Sanford Avenue, in a section called Vailsburg. The victims had been shot multiple times in a second-floor apartment rented by the 42-year-old woman, Sandra Bellush.

The two other victims — Eric Jackson, 19, of Newark and Brielle Simpkins, 15, of Elizabeth — were not related to Ms. Bellush.

Police, city and Essex County officials said it was too early in the investigation to say what motive was behind the shootings or why the teenagers were at the home. They said that there was no sign of burglary or robbery, and that the attackers came and went from the apartment more than once in the hours before the shootings.

No arrests had been made Saturday evening.

Essex County Prosecutor Paula T. Dow said investigators believed the fire was set to cover up the shootings. A dog and cat also were shot and killed.

Mayor Cory A. Booker, who was elected in May after making public safety a focus of his campaign, tried to reassure residents Saturday during a news conference at Newark Police Department headquarters.

”This is not a random act of violence,” he said.

The father of one of the victims said his son had been hanging out at the house after work.

”He was with friends and things got crazy,” said Mr. Jackson’s father, Eric Purves, 35. ”We’re still trying to piece together what happened. I want to know what happened. I want to know the reason.”

Mr. Purves said his son was an aspiring rapper who worked for a construction company.

He ”has made some mistakes, but he’s not a rough kid,” Mr. Purves said. ”I believe he got caught up in someone else’s business.”

The 15-year-old victim, Ms. Simpkins, was a student at Elizabeth High School and became a big sister a few weeks ago when her mother gave birth, a cousin said.

”She’s a sweetheart,” said the cousin, Marie Campbell. She said she and other relatives did not know why Ms. Simpkins was at the home of Ms. Bellush, whom neighbors described as an animal lover who wore hemp necklaces and dressed like a hippie.

The two men who survived were trying to escape the flames as firefighters entered the house. They were taken to University Hospital in Newark, where one, a 17-year-old, was treated and released. The other, a 20-year-old, was in stable condition Saturday afternoon with a nonlife-threatening injury, a hospital spokesman said.

Police went to the house after calls to 911 reported shots being fired about 4:30 a.m. When the police arrived, they found the second floor of the two-family, wood-frame house on fire.

A woman who lives down the block said a commotion woke her about 5 a.m. ”There was a lot of screaming, some guy saying, ‘My girl got shot,’ ” said the woman, who declined to give her name.

Crime has been rampant in recent years in Newark, the biggest city in New Jersey with a population of 280,000. There were 97 murders in 2005, up from 84 in 2004, according to a preliminary report released recently by the F.B.I.

Yet Saturday’s shootings — which brought the city’s homicides for the year to 77 — were a shock to many residents, including those in Vailsburg, home to stately Victorian homes, tree-lined streets and spacious porches.

Mr. Booker said the house had no history of drug or criminal activity, according to an initial check of police records for the last three months.

But several residents said they suspected that drug dealing was taking place there. ”There was a lot of traffic going on, in and out, in and out,” said one woman who did not want to give her name. ”They were up to no good.”

The killings are among the first major tests for the Booker administration. Mr. Booker has vowed to crack down on crime and has made public safety a priority by identifying and bolstering the police presence in high-crime areas through a ”Safe Summer Initiative.”

Still, Newark has seen a rash of violence in recent weeks. The Associated Press reported in July that 20 teenagers had been slain in Newark in the preceding 19 months.

”This level of violence will cease,” Mr. Booker said Saturday. ”We are seeing signs of progress, and we are going to make Newark safe again.”

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