What started as a family celebration ended with New Jerseyites mourning a tragedy.
Birthday partygoers, who survived a mass shooting on May 22, revealed they were completely caught off-guard when hearing dozens of gunshots.
“I was sitting on a chair talking to my daughter and a friend, we were laughing [and, the] next thing I knew I hear shots fired,” witness Sunshine Carter said according to the New York Post.
The 44-year-old counted a total of 20 shots coming from across the nearby cemetery in Fairfield Township, Cumberland County.
Everyone attending the barbecue quickly ran for cover and, somehow, in the panic, Jamaican immigrant Asia Hester, 25, and Kevin Elliot, 30, lost their lives.
“A girl ran in front of me, got shot,” Carter said according to the paper. “It could have been me, my friend was trying to help her.”
Suddenly the gunfire stopped and started again with a further 10 to 15 shots fired.
“I did not know if they had to reload [and] I did not know if it was two shooters, one shooter,” Carter said. “I was running for my dear life.”
A further 12 people were still in a critical condition at the time of publication.
Cumberland County Prosecutor Jennifer Webb-McRae ruled out the possibility of a random attack and is now treating the incident as a targeted shooting.
“Numerous interviews are being done and we are still putting pieces together,” Webb-McRae said according to WVPI-TV.
The BL understands the neighborhood has experienced more than 50 years of so-called turf wars between the South Side and North Side young boys. The conflict began sometime in the 1960s, and violence has continued to escalate to gunfights between each group.
The latest shooting was much more severe than the usual firing of a couple of rounds.
“They just kept going, people were running, falling [and] people were dying,” one concerned citizen told the New York Post. “It went on for five [to] 10 minutes [and everyone was] running from bullets.”
Carter strongly condemned her attacker’s lack of regard for innocent lives, especially her own children attending the party.
“I am being trampled on all because we had a family barbecue,” she told the paper. “We were having a good day, a good time [and] these idiots just come in and shoot innocent people, and for what–why? Just crazy.”
The mother has never experienced anything quite like this before, and described the residence as a welcoming “family home.”
Local police arrested Kevin Dawkins, 36, of Bridgeton in relation to the mass shooting. The suspect was charged with unlawful possession of a weapon and possessing a weapon for an unlawful purpose.