Trenton police prepared to shut down art show before shots fired
TRENTON — City police at the annual art show in the city were preparing to shut down the event as fights broke out inside and outside the venue, the Mercer County Prosecutor said.
Providing an update to the incident that left one dead and more than 20 wounded, Prosecutor Angelo Onofri said police believe the fights were "related to several neighborhood gangs from here in the City of Trenton." Onofri said as a result of the fights police said the "mood inside the venue had been changing," leading to more fights and ultimately the shooting.
The shots were fired by several males around 2:50 a.m at the Art All Night Trenton 2018 festival at the Roebling Wire Works Building on South Clinton Avenue, according to Onofri, sending attendees scrambling for cover.
During the press conference on Sunday evening Onofri identified the shooting victim as 32-year-old Tahaij Wells, who he said had been released from prison in February. Wells had been incarcerated on "homicide-related charges." One suspect taken into custody was identified as 23-year-old Amir Armstrong, who was charged with unlawful possession of a handgun.
Onofri said that multiple weapons were found at the scene, including at least one with an extended-capacity magazine. Trenton Police Director Ernest C. Parrey Jr. said his department has "already been addressing gun violence here in Trenton."
"We've been focusing on guns and the fact that they are being brought into the city and how they are making their way here," he said. "This isn't your everyday lawfully purchased firearms that are coming into our city. They're coming from assorted ways."
In light of Sunday's shooting the Trenton Public Schools announced that all buildings will be implementing a shelter-in-place protocol, which will limit access to only staff and students.
"Incidences such as these, solidify the need for us to have more conversations about safety measures for the Trenton Public School community," superintendent Fred McDowell said in a statement. "In the next coming days, we understand that our community will need time to heal. We will provide access to crisis support and trauma informed care for our students and continue to work with appropriate city officials to understand the details and impact of the event."
According to New Jersey court records, Wells was sentenced to 18 years in prison after pleading guilty to aggravated manslaughter. The plea deal came in connection to the death of 22-year-old Robert McNair, according to NJ.com. The men were arguing about who would drive a car when Wells was 17-years-old, the website reported.
In 2010 he was sentenced to six additional years in prison after pleading guilty to racketeering, court records show. NJ.com reported the charges came from Wells helping gang leader David "Duke" Allen of the Bloods' Nine Trey Gangsters work from behind bars.
Well's prison sentence ended Feb. 6 and he was under a five-year term of supervised release.
The investigation into the shooting is ongoing and Onofri encouraged anyone with information to contact the Homicide task force 609-989-6406.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This story has been updated to include the correct information about Tahaij Wells' release from custody.
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