At 4 p.m. on Nov. 1, a phone alert was issued regarding an alleged rooftop shooter four miles away from the NJIT campus, causing fear and panic. This initial report was false — the incident had taken place in a parking lot. Later that day, NBC News reported that the suspect had shot two police officers at 1 p.m. in the parking lot at 25 Van Velsor Pl., around 3.5 miles away from NJIT.
East Orange resident Kendall Howard, a 30-year-old man who goes by the nickname “Book,” was a suspect in a firearm incident in which an unidentified man had fired a gun into the air on Oct. 28. Subsequently, an alert was issued to the residents of Newark with a photograph of the suspect. New Jersey News reported that Howard’s own mother recognized her son on the flyer and called the police, directing them to the residential building.
Johnny Aquino and Jabril Paul, two rookie police officers, arrived at 25 Van Velsor Pl. but could not find the suspect. As the two were about to leave, they encountered Howard in the building’s parking lot. “They stopped him to talk to him and to identify him, and a violent interaction occurred,” acting Essex County Prosecutor Theodore Stephens told reporters on the evening of Nov. 1.
Howard shot both officers at “close, close range,” according to Newark mayor Ras Baraka. While Paul’s left leg was struck, a bullet grazed Aquino’s neck and lodged in his shoulder. The officers were rushed to University Hospital, where they received treatment. Paul was released the next day, and Aquino was allowed to leave on Nov. 3.
New Jersey governor Phil Murphy visited the officers, mentioning that they were both expected to make a full recovery. “I commend our local law enforcement on their swift action to control the situation and protect their community during another horrific act of gun violence,” he tweeted on Nov. 2.
In addition, Baraka commended residents and other departments who had assisted in the apprehension of the suspect. “Our residents in Newark have shown several times over and over again that they are willing to put themselves in the way of police and harm,” he said, referencing a woman who had heard gunfire and stopped to pull an officer to safety. “Additionally, I want to thank all of the surrounding police departments, as well as the sheriff’s department, Homeland Security and the [Federal Bureau of Investigation] for being here today.”
Residents who heard the gunshots thought that they had come from above, causing false reports of a rooftop sniper. On Nov. 1, State Assemblyman Ralph Caputo commented that the officers were shot from the rooftop of a nearby building, but this statement was refuted by Baraka.
After Howard shot the officers, he ran into a residential building containing over 80 apartments. To trap the suspect, a lockdown was put in place for Chancellor Avenue and Van Velsor Place, according to CBS News. Several residents were prohibited from entering their homes.
Yellie Lopez, resident on the building’s third floor, told the New York Times that she and her three young children were forced to stand outside their apartment door while her husband waited inside, unable to come out. D’Andre Mentor, a resident on Chancellor Avenue, commented, “You come outside and boom, it’s a whole standoff happening outside your house.”
A New Jersey State Police helicopter, visible from NJIT’s campus, hovered overhead for much of the afternoon of Nov. 1 as authorities continued their search. The chase finally ended when the police apprehended Howard on Wednesday, Nov. 2.
Howard was charged with two counts of attempted murder and weapons offenses. During his appearance in court, he pleaded not guilty, according to ABC News.
The suspect’s fame was short-lived at NJIT. With only 24 days left of the semester, many have already started studying for final exams, and the incident has faded from students’ minds.
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