FAIRFIELD TOWNSHIP, N.J. (CBS Philly) – One person has been arrested in connection to a mass shooting that left two people dead and a dozen injured at a house party in New Jersey over the weekend. Authorities charged 36-year-old Kevin Dawkins, of Oklahoma, with multiple counts including prohibited weapons and devices, possession of weapons for an unlawful purpose, unlawful possession of weapons, and certain persons not to have weapons.
“This was not a random act of violence, this was a targeted attack,” New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal said.
Thirty-year-old Kevin Elliot and 25-year-old Asia Hester, both of Bridgeton, were killed, and 12 others were hurt. The dozen people who were injured ranged in age from 19 to 35. At least one person was in critical condition.
Some have been released from hospitals while others “continue to fight for their lives,” Gov. Phil Murphy said.
“This was a birthday party, a birthday party is supposed to be a joyous event not a target for those hell-bent on inflicting harm into a community,” Murphy said.
Troopers originally responded to a party at another residence in Fairfield Township regarding noise complaints earlier in the day Saturday. Officials believe the party dispersed around 11 p.m. and some of those partygoers ended up at the birthday party on the 1000 block of East Commerce Street in Fairfield Township, near Bridgeton.
Just after 11:30 p.m., a trooper was completing a vehicle stop in the area when he heard what he thought were fireworks or gunfire. He immediately responded to the scene with troopers from two other barracks in the area.
At the same time, the 911 dispatcher started receiving phone calls related to the shooting. By the time troopers were on the scene, many partygoers had already left, but police say at least 100 people were at the house party.
The homeowner was hosting a 90s-themed birthday party for a nephew when gunshots rang out.
“It was carnage everywhere,” John Fuqua, whose nephew attended the party, said. “They said the fire was coming from the woods, then when they went to run to their cars, they felt like it was coming that way. This was something set up like they trapped them in that yard.”
A woman who attended the party with her daughter tells Eyewitness News they heard at least 30 gunshots, and when they tried to escape the home they had to step over people who had already been hit.
Eyewitness News spoke with someone who knows the family who was hosting the birthday party, and they say they’ve always been kind and kept to themselves.
Murphy called the shooting “horrific.”
“This despicable and cowardly act of gun violence only steels our commitment to ensuring New Jersey leads the nation in passing and enforcing strong and commonsense gun safety laws,” Murphy said in a statement. “No community should ever experience what occurred last night in Fairfield.”
Since late last night, the @NJSP and county and local law enforcement in Cumberland County have been investigating the horrific mass shooting at a large house party in Fairfield Township that attracted hundreds of party-goers. pic.twitter.com/zA2dRvJ9Dq
— Governor Phil Murphy (@GovMurphy) May 23, 2021
Attorney General Grewal confirmed that investigators recovered multiple firearms and shell casings from the scene. Investigators are working to determine where the firearms originated from and whether they’ve been involved in other recent crimes in the area.
Dawkins is being held in Cumberland County Jail pending a bail detention hearing.
Authorities are seeking the public’s help for information leading to additional arrests.
Anyone with information is asked to contact the New Jersey State Police Bridgeton Station at 856-451-0101 or submit a tip via the Cumberland County Prosecutor’s Office tip website at www.njccpo.org/tips. Anonymous tips are welcome.
KYW-TV’s Dan Koob contributed to this report.