Alleged shooter dead, 22 hurt; Weedman claims cops shot him running away
TRENTON — A pro-marijuana activist released from jail just weeks ago after one of his many encounters with Trenton police claims officers shot a man running from Sunday morning's gunfire-fueled mayhem at Art All Night.
Prosecutors say two people are in custody and one alleged shooter is dead following an incident that left more than 22 people injured, 17 from gunfire itself. Mercer County Prosecutor Angelo Onofri said the circumstances for the shooting remains under investigation, but is not believed connected to terrorism. He said authorities are trying to determine whether a carjacking was involved.
Ed "Weedman" Forchion, both in videos he posted to social media and in a conversation with New Jersey 101.5, said he saw the man who was killed shot from behind by police, and then again from the front after officers caught up to him on the ground.
"I was taking pictures and all of a sudden they started shooting," Forchion says in one of his videos, taken in the immediate aftermath of the incident, as several police officers are on scene and several apparent victims are sitting or laying on the ground. One person, not moving, is in the street surrounded by police, and eventually taken away by an ambulance.
"And everybody was running, and one cop ran in the middle of the street and shot at this guy," Forchion is heard saying on the video of the person not moving in the street. "After he was down he hit him. I couldn't get my phone on. He shot him when he was on the ground. He hit him, he got on the ground, then he got in front of him and shot him two more times."
A woman Forchion spoke to his heard on the video saying she "saw everything." Some of what she says is difficult to make out.
"I saw that cop ... I don't deserve ... sit there, watch that boy die like that. ... Dog, they just shot them," she says. She is also heard in the video saying she doesn't want to make a statement.
Forchion says several times in the video that the person who was shot dead had no gun — but he later edited a note he attached the he video to say re-watching it, he sees an officer pick up a gun from near the body about 5 minutes in.
Also in the video, Forchion captures police tackling and cuffing a man who he says wasn't interfering. About two minutes into Forchion's video, police yell at onlookers that if "you're not law, get back," then take the man down.
"He wasn't doing nothing," Forchion and others say repeatedly, before eventually backing up themselves.
Onofri did not address the specific details of the shooting in statements made by Sunday afternoon. He did not say whether the person who was killed was shot by police or by someone else involved in the incident.
The event, which was supposed to be a 24-hour-long art festival, has been held in Trenton for at least a decade. Forchion released from jail after more than a year when a jury aquitted him of a witness tampering charge, says he had been to several prior to this year
Forchion told New Jersey 101.5 he was also at this weekend's event, and said he was standing mere feet from where the shooting started.
Forchion said he first noticed a group of people arguing, but that he "didn't think that they were getting ready to start shooting." He said he could hear the argument, but didn't think it would escalate to the point that it did. As the argument continued, Forchion said, he saw organizers closing the door to the venue, with people pushing their way to get inside before the doors completely closed.
"All of a sudden like 10 shots rang out," Forchion said. "I could see the cops pulling out their guns, heading toward the door. Just as I got to the corner of the building six more shots went off."
After the initial volley of gunfire, Forchion, said he saw a man run out of the building and past police officers on the scene. While he did not know if the man who ran was one of the shooters Forchion said police shot the man and then worked to keep him on the ground.
"He went down in the street, one of them ran around in front of him and was telling him to stay on the ground," Forchion said. "He was wiggling around. He couldn't stay down. He was bouncing up and down."
Forchion said he has seen "little pushing and shoving matches" at the event in the past, but nothing to this level.
"Nobody did this," he said. "This was stupid. Why would a person bring a gun to an event like that?
The Mercer County Prosecutor's Office is expected to release more information later on Sunday.
The witness tampering charges had stemmed from a 2016 raid on Forchion's downtown Trenton eatery/pot temple. He was among 11 people charged with dealing and possessing drugs. Police said they confiscated $19,000 in marijuana. Forchion said that while people in the establishment may have had drugs, he denies dealing.
In the witness tampering case, prosecutors said Forchion outed an informant and then harassed the man's family by sending them letters. Forchion had remained locked up on the witness tampering charge since March 2017, until last month.
A day after his arrest in 2016, Forchion said he would give prosecutors an "ass whoopin'" in court.
Also in 2016, days after Forchion stood outside his eatery and pot temple shouting “f--- the police!” and calling one of the police officers a “pedophile,” NJ Weedman was charged with cyber-harassment and disorderly conduct. The cyber-harassment charge, according to a copy of the complaint filed by Officer Herbert Flowers, was based on a Facebook and YouTube video of the confrontation in which Forchion is heard telling Flowers he’s a pedophile, while the disorderly conduct was for Forchion’s F-bombs against police “in public and social media forum.”
Prosecutors earlier this month dropped the remaining charges against Forchion in the alleged drug dealing.
He'd also previously defended himself in a 2012 Burlington County drug-dealing tril, ultimaltey being found not guilty, and in 2003, convinced a federal judge to release him from prison after he was jailed for advocating marijuana law reforms, which officials claimed violated his parole.
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