FAIRFIELD TOWNSHIP, NJ – On Sunday, a search was underway for a gunman who shot at a crowded house party, killing two people, wounding 12 and shocking a quiet rural community 50 miles south of Philadelphia.
State police, called to the scene shortly before midnight on Saturday, said they had found the bodies of the 30-year-old and 25-year-old. One of the wounded party members was hospitalized in critical condition, police said statement.
On Sunday, police patrolled the perimeter of the spacious property with dogs. Investigators swept the front lawn with metal detectors. Law enforcement officers tried to open locked cars at the entrance to the property.
Fairfield Mayor Benjamin Byrd was at the scene, where tents and chairs collapsed around the yard. Byrd said he had little information about the shooting.
“No one knows when someone will come out of the woods with a gun,” Byrd said.
John Fuqua said NBC10 that family members were at the party and that his nephew had to flee to the shelter when shots were fired from the forest.
“My nephew said he was having a good time, and the next thing, all he heard was shooting and he was running after his life,” Fuqua said. “He landed on the ground. He had to crawl (after crossing over a dead body.”
Aerial scenes showed a large house surrounded by trees with debris scattered around it. Governor Phil Murphy, who said the party had gathered hundreds of people, described the incident as a “horrific mass shooting”.
“No community should ever experience what happened last night in Fairfield,” he said. “We call on all who have the information to move forward, so that those responsible can be brought to justice.”
Fairfield is a community in South Jersey with about 6,000 residents on the Delaware River. The shooting is being investigated by New Jersey State Police, as well as Cumberland County and local police.
Reverend Michael Keene of AME Trinity Church said he heard fireworks at a party across the street before realizing it was gunshots.
“If you’re going to a party, why do you need to get a gun?” Keene said WPVI-TV. “If you’re there to have a good time, why do you need a gun with you? That means you’re expecting trouble.”
Community leaders said the gathering was a 90s-themed birthday party attended by hundreds of mostly young people. Melissa Helmbrecht of the HopeLoft Community Center told the TV station that the community had a lot of challenges “and we had a lot of tragedies”. She said several members of the community center were at the party.
“I just care about our friends, family, employees. In the coming days, we’ll have a lot of parts to put together,” she said.
Murphy said the investigation is ongoing and those responsible will be brought to justice.
“Let there be no mistake,” Murphy said. “This heinous and cowardly act of gun violence only confirms our commitment to ensuring that New Jersey leads the state in enacting and enforcing strong and sound gun security laws.”
Bacon reported from Arlington, Virginia.