3 teens to be charged with attempted murder in pursuit that injured 6 N.J. cops

The teens allegedly shot at officers during a pursuit that ended in 2 crashes

Chris Franklin and Kevin Shea
NJ Advance Media Group, Edison, N.J.

MERCER COUNTY, N.J. — Three Trenton teens will be charged with attempted murder and related firearms charges for shooting at police officers during an early Wednesday vehicle chase that went through two towns, the Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office alleged.

The pursuit ended in two collisions, injuring a total of six officers. Three remained hospitalized Wednesday evening, and one, Officer Kevin Starkey, is in critical condition, the office and Trenton police said.

Also injured in the crashes were the three suspects: Zaire Butler, 19, who suffered internal injuries and remains hospitalized in critical condition; Nazere Crews, 18, who broke his femur and also remains hospitalized; and a 16-year-old male who had a broken wrist, and was treated and released to police custody, the office said.

The teens are all city residents, and officers recovered three firearms, two in the suspects’ car and one on a street, apparently tossed during the pursuit.

The incident began with a tip to Trenton police about a social media post that showed a group of individuals with guns driving around Trenton’s West Ward looking for people to shoot, the prosecutor’s office said.

“At that hour, what else could they have been doing? Other than to create mischief and harm to the residents of the city,” Trenton Police Director Sheilah Coley said at an afternoon press event with Mayor Reed Gusciora.

“There is no doubt, that without the quick actions of my officers, there would have been three weapons on the street,” the director said.

The director and the mayor both said the officers’ heroic actions saved lives.

“The weapons seized today are three less than can be used against our residents,” Gusciora said. “In the end, they saved lives by stopping indiscriminate shooting coming from the car (being chased).”

”And I cannot thank (the officers) enough for their service,” the mayor said.

The prosecutor’s office ghave this account of the incident:

Following the social media post, Trenton police alerted their officers about it at about 2:25 a.m. A short time later, patrol officers Michael Gettler and Jeffery Pownall spotted a red 2003 Ford Focus and found it had been reported stolen.

The officers tried to pull it over on Parkside Avenue, but it fled and eventually into Ewing along North Olden Avenue, where, near the Home Depot, four shots were fired at the Gettler and Pownall’s patrol vehicle. One shot hit the vehicle’s light bar and bounced off the roof.

The chase went back into the city and into East Trenton. At the intersection of North Olden and North Clinton avenues, the Ford Focus crashed into a Trenton patrol vehicle containing officers Starkey and Brian Walker, who were headed to help.

The Ford than spun into a minivan that was traveling in the opposite direction.

Then, city officers Orlando Santiago and Andy Gomez approached the Ford and Santiago slipped on leaking fluids from the crash and hurt his head and cut his elbow, and Gomez suffered cuts to a hand from broken glass.

Those four officers, plus Gettler and Pownall, were taken to a city hospital for treatment.

In addition to Starkey, Walker, who also struck his head in the crash, and Santiago remained in the hospital. Gettler and Pownell were evaluated and released.

Investigators found a shell casing and two bullets near the Home Depot in Ewing, an FN PS90 submachine gun on Olden Avenue in Trenton, as well as an AR-15 rifle and a Glock 26 pistol in the wrecked Ford, the prosecutor’s office said.

Coley said city officers have recovered 104 firearms so far this year. “That’s a lot of guns,” she said. “That just gives you an idea of the firepower that is on the streets at any given time.”

©2020 NJ Advance Media Group, Edison, N.J.

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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