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Teen Charged With Fatally Shooting Area Resident in Dance Club Parking Lot
CONTINUED FROM PAGE 1
occurred, the Prosecutor stated. A .38-caliber revolver which may also have been involved in the incident was found at the scene, Mr. Manahan reported. He said there is presently “no indication” the victim fired a weapon, but declined to reveal whether either the suspect or Mr. Moody had a criminal record.
The Prosecutor also noted there was no concrete evidence at present that the incident was related to gang activity. He noted officials were continuing their investigation into the shooting.
Mr. Manahan praised the efforts of Detective William Schultz of the Scotch Plains Police Department and Detective Kevin Foley of the Prosecutor’s Major Crimes Unit, as well as others who participated in the investigation, who, he said, “literally worked night and day” to crack the case.
Authorities, who spent the Thanksgiving holiday weekend locating and interviewing witnesses, arrested Brown on a complaint signed Monday evening by Superior Court Judge Miriam N. Span, who set bail for the suspect at $150,000 in cash. He was booked at Scotch Plains police headquarters, and transferred to the Union County Jail in Elizabeth on Tuesday afternoon.
Investigators are attempting to determine whether any other participants were involved in the incident outside the club, and if the gun recovered at the scene was registered to anyone, Mr. Manahan revealed.
Club Malibu, which is open Thursday through Saturday, has been operated under various names at the same location for more than 40 years by the Ricciutti family.
Police have periodically been called to the club in the past several years, mostly in response to fights which have erupted in the parking lot. In August, five people were arrested for fighting in the parking lot of the club around the 2 a.m. closing time. No weapons were involved.
Chief O’Brien remarked that there have “never been incidences at the
club which have risen to this nature,” although he emphasized that this fact did not diminish the seriousness of the crime or that innocent people were put in jeopardy.
He said authorities “are not taking any steps at this point” to close the club, but added he planned to meet with the owners of the establishment to discuss ways of improving patron safety.
He commented earlier in the week that problems associated with Club Malibu mostly occur among crowds waiting in the parking lot, rather than inside the dance club itself.
In August, the owners of the club were fined $5,500 for reportedly exceeding by 40 the maximum permitted occupancy of 600 patrons, and $2,000 for not having the establishment’s fire lane adequately identified, according to Scotch Plains Construction Board of Appeals Chairman Bob Roberts.
These fines were reduced at a November 4 hearing to $2,500 for the occupancy citation and $200 for the fire lane violation, the board Chairman said. He said the amounts were lessened based on the possibility that individuals had entered the club unauthorized through a rear door and were not seen by staff members keeping a tally on the number of patrons who were entering the establishment.
In addition, testimony was given during the board hearing that weather conditions had delayed correction of the fire lane situation, Mr. Roberts said.
He remarked that club owner Frank Ricciutti has appeared “cooperative” in working to resolve potential hazards at the establishment, adding the proprietor has met with township officials and that some “viable” solutions have been discussed, such as installing alarms or guards at all doors to prevent people from sneaking into the club.
The club owner’s have several more weeks to submit an occupancy plan for crowd control to the board, or the fines will revert to their original amounts.
Authorities revealed there were approximately 500 people inside the club
at the time Mr. Moody was shot. Chief O’Brien stated earlier this week that the club’s owners have been complying with the occupancy regulation.
“Our main concern is the number of people allowed to congregate outside. There should be something done to curtail that,” remarked the Chief, who said police units patrol the neighborhood “every 15 to 20 minutes” when the club is open for business.
“Ninety-nine percent are decent people who go there to have a good time,” he continued. “It’s the half-percent (who cause trouble) that make it bad for everyone.”
During the press conference, Mr. Manahan said law enforcement officials are continuing to see instances of young people using deadly force to resolve disputes. “One thing we’re always concerned about is the source of these weapons and how these young people obtain (them.)”
In an effort to address the growing violence in school nationwide and right here in New Jersey, the Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders has announced a four-step plan to find solutions to crime, drugs and violence in the schools.
County officials have cited a State of Our Nation’s Youth survey which reflected that 60 percent of public school teenagers do not feel safe at school and say teachers and administrators do not always take necessary steps to ensure safety and security.
According to the National School Safety Center, 42 individuals were killed in schools across the nation during the 1997-1998 school year, up from 25 the previous year. According to the Center’s report, 19 multiple killings took place in the last school year as opposed to four the year before.
The report notes that violence is less a function of the location of the school and more a function of the way television and computers and, to some ex
tent, movies bring communities news of the latest crimes.
“As a parent of three children, two who were graduated from public schools and one who is still attending, I share these concerns,” stated Union County Freeholder Chairman Daniel P. Sullivan.
The four steps to be taken by the county are as follows:
· Step One — Initiation of a toll-free number, which will allow students to report crimes, ask for help with bullying, violence, gangs, weapons or drug activity. This means that students, hesitant about reporting problems to officials while in school, may elect to call from outside the school and anonymously ask for assistance.
· Step Two — Establishment of violence reduction teams, which will be to be comprised of police, parents, students, educators as well as community and business leaders. The teams will meet regularly to compare ideas and perspectives.
· Step Three — Development of a school violence reduction master plan that addresses school safety, the presence of drugs and weapons in schools and student discipline. This should include strategies from districts where disciplinary procedures and drug eradication efforts have worked well.
· Step Four Encourage schools and communities to create well-supervised “safe corridors” to and from schools.
“We believe that instituting these four key steps will make our children’s school years safe years,” he added.
“Each year, as I attend numerous school events with my children, I hear
educators remind us that we don’t raise our children in isolation, they are influenced by many sources,” stated Union County Freeholder Mary Ruotolo.
“I agree wholeheartedly with that statement. I have witnessed the involvement of educators, law enforcement officials, business leaders and residents of varying backgrounds in the lives of our children. This interaction provides children with many different people to turn to for help and advice,” she added.
Sheriff Ralph G. Froehlich asked, “Where have we dropped the ball? In schools today, we not only have to worry about the safety of our students, we have to worry about the safety of our teachers.”
Sheriff Froehlich and the Freeholders said they want to get the young people involved, using them as a resource, bringing them in on the decision-making process.
“This is a vital issue no matter what community you live in,” Freeholder Sullivan added. “The Union County Freeholders want to see the four steps enacted throughout our county to bring about a safer environment for Union County’s students.”
Stressing safety from violence through weapons, the Freeholders and the Sheriff are making videos available to any schools, organizations or individual citizen from the sheriff’s office.
“If you see a gun, get an adult,” is suggested for grammar school children and “Guns: A teenage tragedy,” is recommended for high school students.
To borrow a video, please call the Identification Section of the Sheriff’s Office at (908) 558-2630.
CONTINUED FROM PAGE 1
ADDRESSING SCHOOL VIOLENCE...Lieutenant Vincent Manning of the Union County Sheriff’s Office joined Sheriff Ralph G. Froehlich, Fanwood Mayor Maryanne S. Connelly, Westfield Mayor Thomas C. Jardim and Freeholder Mary Ruotolo of Westfield in front of Westfield High School earlier this year. They were there to talk about the problems and possible solutions for keeping kids safe in today’s society. Union County Freeholders Unveils Plan
To Address Violence in the Schools Bank Heist Suspect Killed After Firing on Police Officers
car in the 400 block of West Fourth Street in the city, sounded his horn, then fired several shots at him, Mr. Manahan said.
Officer Hoofat, who was seriously injured in the right arm, radioed for assistance, the Prosecutor revealed. A short time later, the suspect fired on Plainfield Detective Steven Francisco and his partner as they responded to their colleague’s radio call, the Prosecutor stated.
Detective Francisco, who was struck in the hip and the leg, remained at Muhlenberg Regional Medical Center in Plainfield this week. His partner was not injured. Detective Hoofatt was admitted to Muhlenberg and released last week, Mr. Manahan said.
After firing on the officers, the suspect was seen traveling eastbound on Route No. 22 by Mountainside Police Officer Andrew Sullivan, who began pursuing the Howard’s vehicle.
The suspect made a U-turn onto the westbound side of Route No. 22,
Mr. Manahan confirmed, eventually stopping his car in the middle of the highway when he saw police waiting at Glenside Avenue.
Sergeant Mark Zyla and Officer Suzanne Butler of the Scotch Plains Police Department, along with Officer Sullivan and Union County Police Sergeant Kevin Keating, ordered the suspect out of his vehicle.
Instead, Howard raised both hands and opened fire with his weapons, Mr. Manahan said. Police returned about 30 to 40 shots, he acknowledged. It was unknown how many shots were fired by the suspect.
“Here was a violent, armed criminal, hell-bent on shooting at police and perhaps bent on destruction at any cost, who was finally subdued by officers who risked their lives to prevent any more injuries to innocent citizens or other police officers,” the Prosecutor remarked. “I’m proud of the way they handled themselves,” he added.