Day: June 29, 2021

Hamilton Police and Firefighters save man from highway overpass after disturbance, resisting arrest

Updated with official information from Hamilton Police.

By: Tyler Eckel

HAMILTON TOWNSHIP (MERCER)– Officers from the Hamilton Township Police Department along with firefighters from Hamilton Township Fire Division rescued a man who was on the edge of a bridge after fleeing from Police, Monday night.

Police responded to the 100 block of Route 156 around 10:00 pm on a reported disturbance. Upon arrival Officers spoke to the victim who stated they had a restraining order against the suspect who fled prior to their arrival and threatened to jump off a bridge. The victim believed the suspect was hiding in the area waiting for Officers to depart. Officers checked the area but were unable to locate the suspect.

Officers cleared the scene but parked down the street to keep a visual on the residence. Shortly after, Officers A. Zuzzio and J. Avanzato saw the suspect return to the residence. The Officers drove up to the residence and the suspect took off from the Officers on foot. The suspect continued running away from Police after being ordered to stop numerous times. The suspect ran into oncoming traffic on South Broad Street towards the Route 130 overpass. When he reached the overpass he began to climb the fence in an attempt to jump off the overpass. Officers Zuzzio and Avanzato were able to grab the suspect and hold him until additional units responded to assist in removing the suspect from the overpass fence.

Hamilton firefighters also assisted in pulling the suspect to safety. According to radio reports, the initial caller stated the man was trying to jump from the overpass. An additional call then stated the man was dangling from the bridge. Firefighters arrived on scene and immediately established a plan to pull the suspect to safety.

A ladder truck was sent onto Route 130 to position their ladder under the bridge and bring the man to safety. Once positioned, a hole was cut into the fence of the overpass, and the suspect was pulled to safety.

The suspect was identified as Alexander Lanning, 33, of Hamilton. Lanning was charged with Contempt of Court (Violation of Restraining Order) and Resisting by Flight. He also had several outstanding warrants.

Lanning was transported to the crisis center by Robert Wood Johnson EMS for evaluation.

Absolute great job to all involved in the swift rescue of the suspect, especially to the officer who climbed onto the other side of the fence to protect the suspect from falling onto the highway. is recognizing these officers and firefighters as hero’s.

SEC Appoints New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal as Director of Enforcement

WASHINGTON, D.C. — TRENTON, NJ (MERCER)–The Securities and Exchange Commission today announced that Gurbir S. Grewal has been appointed Director of the Division of Enforcement, effective July 26, 2021. Grewal currently serves as Attorney General for the State of New Jersey, a role he has held since January 2018, when he was confirmed by the New Jersey State Senate after being nominated by Governor Phil Murphy.

“I’m honored and delighted to welcome Attorney General Grewal to the SEC,” said SEC Chair Gary Gensler. “He has had a distinguished career as New Jersey’s chief law enforcement officer and as a prosecutor at both the local and federal levels. He has the ideal combination of experience, values, and leadership ability to helm the Enforcement Division at this critical time. I look forward to working closely with him to protect investors and root out wrongdoing in our markets.”

“I thank Melissa Hodgman for her service as the Enforcement Division’s Acting Director,” Chair Gensler added. “She will continue to be an important adviser to both Gurbir and me, and I look forward to our continued work together.”

“The Enforcement Division has a critical role to play in finding and punishing violations of the law,” said Grewal. “I’m excited to get to work with the talented team of public servants to uncover and prosecute misconduct and protect investors. I thank Governor Murphy for the opportunity to serve the people of New Jersey and all of the colleagues with whom I’ve had the pleasure to work during my career in the state.”

As New Jersey’s Attorney General, Grewal heads the Department of Law & Public Safety, which employs more than 3,700 uniformed officers, 750 lawyers, and thousands of additional public servants, including investigators, regulators, and administrative staff. Before becoming Attorney General, Grewal served as Bergen County Prosecutor, the chief law enforcement office of New Jersey’s most populous county. Earlier in his career, he was an Assistant U.S. Attorney in the Criminal Division of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of New Jersey, where he served as Chief of the Economic Crimes Unit from 2014 to 2016 and oversaw the investigation and prosecution of all major white collar and cybercrimes in the District of New Jersey. He also previously served as an AUSA in the Criminal Division of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York, where he was assigned to the Business and Securities Fraud Unit. Grewal worked in private practice from 1999-2004 and from 2008-2010.

Grewal graduated cum laude with a Bachelor of Science in Foreign Service from the Georgetown University School of Foreign Service in 1995. He obtained his law degree from the College of William & Mary, Marshall-Wythe School of Law in 1999.

Statement by Governor Murphy on the Departure of Attorney General Gurbir Grewal:

“Through his efforts standing up to the Trump administration’s attacks on New Jersey and our diverse communities, instituting historic reforms in policing, and leading the fight against gun violence, Attorney General Grewal has been an invaluable member of our administration and a dedicated public servant to the residents of New Jersey. Though we’ll miss his leadership, I know he’s the right person to protect investors all across the nation, and I congratulate SEC Chair Gensler for this outstanding selection.“ 

Hamilton, NJ Man Among 15 Charged In Newark Heroin and Crack Cocaine Drug Trafficking Ring

Jamar Hall, a/k/a “Goo” Age 35, Hamilton, NJ Conspiracy to distribute heroin and crack cocaine; Conspiracy to possess firearms

June 29, 2021

NEWARK, NJ — Fifteen people were charged today for their roles in a Newark heroin and crack cocaine distribution organization that sold hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of illegal drugs out of a residential building on Fairmount Avenue, Acting U.S. Attorney Rachael A. Honig announced.

The alleged leader of the operation, Jakai Dennis (see chart below), is charged with engaging in a continuing criminal enterprise. Dennis also is charged, along with the 15 other defendants, with one count each of conspiracy to distribute one kilogram or more of heroin and 280 grams or more of crack cocaine, and conspiracy to possess firearms in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime. All of the defendants are in custody and are scheduled to have their initial court appearances later today before U.S. Magistrate Judge Leda Dunn Wettre in Newark federal court.

“This drug trafficking organization attempted to take control of an entire neighborhood,” Acting U.S. Attorney Honig said. “The defendants’ use of violence and intimidation made life intolerable for the community members who live there. We will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to disrupt operations like these and make our streets safer for the people who call Newark home.”

“The residents of this section of Fairmount Avenue have lived as a captive audience, watching their neighborhood degrade due to the daily drug dealing on their street and the unwelcome violence it brings,” Special Agent in Charge George M. Crouch Jr. said. “As shootings and violent crime continue to escalate in this and other cities around the country, the FBI will remain vigilant, working with our law enforcement partners – including the Newark Police Department – to combat this ongoing epidemic.”

According to the complaint:

The defendants allegedly ran a sophisticated operation that took advantage of the residential building’s location to sell drugs from the porch area, which was guarded by a locked steel door and difficult for law enforcement to infiltrate despite a constant stream of buyers approaching the front porch area day and night. One of the defendants was the building’s superintendent, who was paid in money and heroin to store drugs in his apartment and to give the other defendants access to an empty apartment on the second floor, which they also used to store drugs and guns.

The defendants worked in shifts from 6:00 a.m. until late in the evening. Buyers came on foot, in vehicles and on bicycles to purchase the illegal drugs. The heroin sold was of a high quality and was sold in various “brands,” which were stamped onto the glassine envelopes that contained the heroin, allowing buyers to identify and purchase the brands that they preferred. FBI surveillance witnessed hundreds of narcotics transactions from November 2020 to June 2021.

The charges are the result of an investigation by the FBI, which included surveillance, phone record review, the use of confidential informants to make more than 30 controlled purchases, and the review of arrests by local law enforcement, as well as seizures of heroin, crack cocaine and firearms. Based upon evidence obtained in the case, the defendants sold more than one kilogram of heroin and 280 grams of crack cocaine during the conspiracy period.

The count of running a continuing criminal enterprise carries a minimum sentence of 20 years in prison and a maximum of life in prison. The count of conspiracy to distribute one kilogram or more of heroin and 280 grams or more of crack cocaine carries a minimum sentence of 10 years and a maximum of life in prison. The charge of conspiracy to possess firearms in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.

Acting U.S. Attorney Honig credited special agents of the FBI under the supervision of Special Agent in Charge Crouch in Newark, with the investigation leading to the charges. She also thanked police officers and detectives of the Newark Police Department, under the direction of Public Safety Director Brian O’Hara; officers of the Essex County Sheriff’s Office, under the direction of Sheriff Armando B. Fontoura; detectives of the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office, under the direction of Acting Prosecutor Theodore N. Stephens II; the East Orange and Bloomfield police departments and the Essex County Department of corrections for their assistance with the investigation.

The government is represented by Senior Trial Counsel Robert Frazer of the Organized
Crime/Gangs Unit in the Criminal Division in Newark.

The charges and allegations contained in the federal criminal complaint are merely accusations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

Jakai Dennis, a/k/a “Bop31NewarkContinuing criminal enterprise;Conspiracy to distribute heroin and crack cocaine; Conspiracy to possess firearms
Angel Kearney, a/k/a “Jim,” a/k/a “Dred”31East Orange, NJConspiracy to distribute heroin and crack cocaine; Conspiracy to possess firearms
Thomas Gibson, a/k/a “Tommy,”44NewarkConspiracy to distribute heroin and crack cocaine; Conspiracy to possess firearms
Jamar Hall, a/k/a “Goo”35Hamilton, NJConspiracy to distribute heroin and crack cocaine; Conspiracy to possess firearms
Kasim Thurston, a/k/a “Kai,” a/k/a “Kaz”37NewarkConspiracy to distribute heroin and crack cocaine; Conspiracy to possess firearms
Ibn Thurston, a/k/a “Wheezy,” a/k/a “Saheed”33NewarkConspiracy to distribute heroin and crack cocaine; Conspiracy to possess firearms
Antwan Williams, a/k/a “Ant,” a/k/a “Rue”30NewarkConspiracy to distribute heroin and crack cocaine; Conspiracy to possess firearms
Kevin Hall31NewarkConspiracy to distribute heroin and crack cocaine; Conspiracy to possess firearms
Andre Fuller, a/k/a “Draco”31NewarkConspiracy to distribute heroin and crack cocaine; Conspiracy to possess firearms
Akim Gibson, a/k/a “Ching”24NewarkConspiracy to distribute heroin and crack cocaine; Conspiracy to possess firearms
Shalamar McCall, a/k/a “Shaggy” 34NewarkConspiracy to distribute heroin and crack cocaine; Conspiracy to possess firearms
Hakis Moses, a/k/a “Hak”43NewarkConspiracy to distribute heroin and crack cocaine; Conspiracy to possess firearms
Jaleel Drake, a/k/a “Lil”, a/k/a “SK”27NewarkConspiracy to distribute heroin and crack cocaine; Conspiracy to possess firearms
Elijah Shumate, a/k/a Eli”, a/k/a “E”50NewarkConspiracy to distribute heroin and crack cocaine; Conspiracy to possess firearms
David Williams51NewarkConspiracy to distribute heroin and crack cocaine; Conspiracy to possess firearms

Defense counsel:
Jakai Dennis: Gary Mizzone Esq., Little Falls, New Jersey
Thomas Gibson: Lorraine Gauli-Rufo Esq., Verona New Jersey
Jamar Hall: Stephen Turano Esq., Newark
Kasim Thurston: Christopher Adams Esq., Red Bank, New Jersey
Ibn Thurston: Dennis Cleary Esq., West Orange, New Jersey
Antwan Williams: Kevin Buchan Esq., Roseland, New Jersey
Kevin Hall: Julian Wilsey Esq., Livingston, New Jersey
Andre Fuller: Andrew Olesnycky Esq., Westfield, New Jersey
Akim Gibson: Joseph Rubino Esq., Union, New Jersey
Shalamar McCall: Michael Calabro Esq., Newark
Jaleel Drake: Wanda Akin Esq., Newark
Angel Kearney: Elvis Jardines Esq., Union City, New Jersey
Hakis Moses: Stacy Biancamano Esq., Cranford, New Jersey
David Williams: Paul Condon Esq., Jersey City, New Jersey
Elijah Shumate: Georgina Pallitto Esq., Newark

Jessica Riepe of Englishtown, Awarded Betsy Niles Scholarship From NJ Sharing Network Foundation

June 29, 2021

The NJ Sharing Network Foundation’s Betsy Niles Scholarship Fund has awarded a scholarship to Jessica Riepe of Englishtown, NJ, for her passion and dedication to raising awareness of organ and tissue donation. Riepe was presented with her scholarship award at the NJ Sharing Network’s headquarters in New Providence during a private ceremony with her family members in the Landscape of Life Meditation Garden.

Riepe is a 2021 graduate of Marlboro High School, and she plans to attend Holy Family University in Philadelphia the Fall. Her connection to donation and transplantation came when her closest cousin passed away and became a donor in 2016. Riepe recalls how difficult this time was for her and her entire family, but she was so inspired by her cousin’s selfless gift of life that she shares his story with anyone who will listen. Riepe soon joined Marlboro High School’s Donate Life Club where she has met many others with connections to donation. Riepe plans to continue to spread awareness in her community about donation to help educate others about the power and importance that it holds in saving lives.

The NJ Sharing Network Foundation’s scholarship program provides an opportunity to recognize and award graduating high school senior advocates whose lives have been touched by organ and tissue donation and transplantation. The Betsy Niles Scholarship Fund was created in memory of Elizabeth “Betsy” Niles, a lifelong Montclair resident who passed away in 2011 after a tragic accident. Niles spent most of her career in educational publishing and was passionate about helping to improve the education system. Her organ and tissue donations touched the lives of over three dozen people, including a life-saving kidney transplant for one recipient. Dan Sarnowski of Sparta, Niles’ loving companion, established The Betsy Niles Scholarship Fund in 2014. Sarnowski and Niles’ family decided the best way to honor Betsy was through supporting education programs. Betsy’s Dash, one of NJ Sharing Network’s most-prominent 5K Celebration of Life teams, has raised nearly $100,000 since its inception.

“Betsy was known for always giving the perfect gift for every occasion and her last gift was the greatest gift of all – the gift of life,” said Sarnowski, who serves as Treasurer of the NJ Sharing Network Foundation’s Board of Trustees and Betsy’s Dash 5K Team Captain. “I feel it’s a perfect tribute to Betsy to have a fund and a scholarship program in her honor. Jessica serves as perfect example of what it means to take an active role in supporting these important outreach efforts.”

Scholarship applicants were measured on academic achievement, community and volunteer efforts, extracurricular activities and advocacy for organ and tissue donation. The application process included a thorough review by a committee of NJ Sharing Network Foundation Board members and volunteers.

“We are grateful for the generous support of the Betsy Niles Scholarship Fund and their ongoing commitment to rewarding students who share a commitment to our life-saving mission,” said Elisse E. Glennon, Executive Director of the NJ Sharing Network Foundation. “We know that Jessica and all of our scholarship recipients will continue to be strong leaders in educating others about donation and transplantation.”

According to NJ Sharing Network, there are nearly 4,000 New Jersey residents currently waiting for a life-saving transplant, and one person in New Jersey dies every three days waiting for a transplant. Just one organ and tissue donor can save eight lives and enhance the lives of over 75 people. To learn more, get involved and register as an organ and tissue donor, visit

About NJ Sharing Network
NJ Sharing Network is the federally designated non-profit organization responsible for recovering organs and tissue for the nearly 4,000 New Jersey residents currently waiting for a life-saving transplant. With headquarters in New Providence, NJ, the organization is part of the national recovery system, serving the 110,000 people on the national waiting list. NJ Sharing Network was selected by NJBiz as one of the state’s “Best Places to Work” for the third consecutive year. To learn more, get involved and register as an organ and tissue donor, visit

About the NJ Sharing Network Foundation
The NJ Sharing Network Foundation is committed to increasing the number of lives saved through innovative transplant research, family support, public awareness and education about the life-saving benefits of organ and tissue donation and transplantation. By making a contribution, you empower our efforts, bringing us a step closer to providing the greatest gift of all… the Gift of Life.

Man With Gun Tries To Board Plane At Trenton-Mercer Airport

A TSA officer stopped the Plainfield, New Jersey, man with a 9mm gun and gun magazine loaded with 17 bullets, inside his carry-on bag. 

June 29, 2021

EWING TOWNSHIP, NJ (MERCER)–A Union County, New Jersey, resident was arrested by police after Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officers caught him with a handgun at the security checkpoint at Trenton-Mercer Airport on Monday, June 28.

A TSA officer stopped the Plainfield, New Jersey, man with a 9mm gun and gun magazine loaded with 17 bullets, inside his carry-on bag. In addition to his arrest, the man also faces a stiff federal financial civil penalty.

It was the second handgun caught at a New Jersey airport within a week. TSA officers at Newark-Liberty International Airport caught a Pennsylvania man with a loaded gun on June 23 at one of the airport checkpoints.

A TSA officer spotted the handgun when the carry-on bag entered a checkpoint X-ray unit. A Mercer County Sheriff’s deputy was alerted, confiscated the weapon and arrested the man on weapons charges.   

“Trying to bring a gun onto a flight in a carry-on bag is not how to safely transport a firearm,” said Thomas Carter, TSA’s Federal Security Director for New Jersey. “The right way to transport a firearm for a flight is to make sure it is unloaded, packed in a locked hard-sided case and declared at your airline check-in counter. The airline will make sure that the gun case is placed in the belly of the aircraft where nobody has access to it during a flight. It’s a fairly simple process.”

 TSA reserves the right to issue a civil penalty to travelers who have guns and gun parts with them at a checkpoint. Civil penalties for bringing a handgun into a checkpoint can stretch into thousands of dollars, depending on mitigating circumstances. This applies to travelers with or without concealed gun carry permits because even though an individual may have a concealed carry permit, it does not allow for a firearm to be carried onto an airplane. The complete list of civil penalties is posted online. If a traveler with a gun is a member of TSA PreCheck®, that individual will lose their TSA PreCheck privileges.

When an individual shows up at a checkpoint with a firearm, the checkpoint lane comes to a standstill until the police resolve the incident. Guns at checkpoints can delay travelers from getting to their gates.

Passengers are permitted to travel with firearms in checked baggage if they are properly packaged and declared at their airline ticket counter to be transported in the belly of the plane. Guns are absolutely not permitted to be carried onto planes. Checked firearms must be unloaded, packed in a hard-sided case, locked, and packed separately from ammunition. TSA has details on how to properly travel with a firearm posted on its website. Firearm possession laws vary by state and locality and travelers should check into firearm laws before they decide to travel with their guns. Travelers should also contact their airline as they may have additional requirements for traveling with firearms and ammunition.

Nationwide, TSA officers detected 3,257 firearms on passengers or their carry-on bags at checkpoints last year, although the total number of passengers screened at airport checkpoints across the country fell by 500 million compared to 2019 due to the pandemic. The result was that twice as many firearms per million passengers screened were detected at checkpoints in 2020 compared to 2019. In 2020, TSA caught approximately 10 firearms per million passengers as compared to about five firearms per million passengers in 2019.  Of the guns caught by TSA in 2020, about 83 percent were loaded.

50 Years Later, New Jersey Rights a Historical Wrong: AG Grewal Formally Apologizes for Office’s Role in Shutting Down the State’s Gay Bars

AG Grewal, ABC Director Graziano Vacate 126 Enforcement Actions Brought Against ABC License Holders that Served LGBTQ+ Patrons from 1933 to 1967

AG Directive

Special Ruling

June 29, 2021

TRENTON, NJ (MERCER)–As Pride month draws to a close, Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal is taking a series of unprecedented actions to recognize an ugly moment in the history of the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office: the systematic targeting of gay bars by the Office’s Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control (“ABC”) between 1933 and 1967. To right this historical wrong, Attorney General Grewal today apologized for these historical practices and issued a directive ordering ABC to vacate 126 enforcement actions that suspended or revoked the licenses of liquor establishments during that era because they served LGBTQ+ patrons.

Today’s actions mark the first time the Attorney General’s Office or ABC has formally apologized for their role in these actions that occurred prior to a landmark 1967 New Jersey Supreme Court decision, which held that ABC could not suspend a liquor license simply because the licensee allowed LGBTQ+ individuals to congregate at the premises. In addition, Attorney General Grewal and ABC Director James Graziano announced that ABC would both expand its current anti-bias training to root out any implicit bias or discriminatory enforcement efforts and undertake a broader review of the agency’s historical practices to determine whether any other communities were subject to discriminatory enforcement actions.

“For too many years, New Jersey failed to live up to its professed values of diversity, inclusion, and respect as it relates to our LGBTQ+ community,” said Governor Phil Murphy. “While we cannot undo the injustices of the past, today’s action by Attorney General Grewal demonstrates our commitment to recognizing the harms that have been suffered and acting to provide support to New Jersey’s LGBTQ+ residents.”

 “The Attorney General’s Office is charged with furthering justice in New Jersey, and yet for more than three decades, our office fell far short,” said Attorney General Grewal. “The time has come to acknowledge this failing, to apologize for what happened, and to make sure it never occurs again. We are committed to righting this historical wrong and strengthening our relationship with New Jersey’s LGBTQ+ community.”

“To be clear, today’s ABC is committed to according respect, dignity, fairness and appropriate due process to all parties and persons before it and will not discriminate—or by extension allow licensees or permittees to discriminate—against protected classes or the public,” said Director Graziano. “We join Attorney General Grewal in acknowledging and condemning the harm our agency caused to members of the LGBTQ+ community and offer our sincere apologies to the generations of individuals impacted by it.”

Tonight in Asbury Park, Attorney General Grewal and representatives of ABC will gather with Garden State Equality and other community leaders to install a memorial at the former site of Paddock Bar, which was subject to three different enforcement actions by ABC between 1957 and 1960.

Those actions, like others targeting gay bars, were based on two ABC regulations issued shortly after the end of Prohibition: Rule 4, which prohibited licensed liquor establishments from allowing “female impersonators” (among others) on their premises; and Rule 5, which prohibited licensees from operating their business “in such a manner as to become a nuisance”—a term that, until 1967, included allowing the “congregation of apparent homosexuals” at the establishment. That year, the New Jersey Supreme Court held in One Eleven Wines & Liquors, Inc. v. Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control that ABC could not use its enforcement authority to target gay bars simply because they served LGBTQ+ patrons. However, since then, neither the Attorney General’s Office nor ABC has formally apologized for its actions prior to the 1967 ruling.

To address these failings, Attorney General Grewal ordered ABC to take the following actions, with the support of and in consultation with Director Graziano.

  • Issue a Special Ruling that formally vacates all 126 ABC enforcement actions issued prior to 1967 that relied on Rule 4 or Rule 5 to suspend or revoke a liquor license because the licensee served LGBTQ+ patrons; 
  • Post on the agency’s website the records of all 126 actions vacated by today’s directive, to ensure that the historical record is available to the public; 
  • Expand anti-bias and cultural diversity training for ABC investigators and attorneys, with a focus on interactions with the LGBTQ+ community, to ensure that the agency’s staff treat all New Jerseyans with dignity and respect; and 
  • Conduct a full review of the agency’s historical records to determine if the agency’s enforcement authority was used to target any other marginalized communities, with a report to the Attorney General due no later than October 15, 2021. 

“We are immensely grateful to the Attorney General for his historic acts of restorative justice today,” said Christian Fuscarino, Executive Director of Garden State Equality. “As the Garden State’s chief law enforcement officer, Attorney General Grewal is uniquely positioned to not only acknowledge past government persecution of LGBTQ establishments and community members, but also to correct that past wrongdoing and be a significant part of the decades-long efforts to bring equity and legal protections to New Jersey’s LGBTQ community.”

 “This unprecedented action by Attorney General Grewal represents a profound and meaningful acknowledgment of the unfair discriminatory treatment visited upon the LGBTQ community in the past by state law enforcement officials,” said Thomas Prol, a founding and current Executive Committee member of Garden State Equality and the past president of the New Jersey Bar Association. “The very people who were supposed to protect my community were actually the ones who led the charge in persecuting us – often viciously so – and they lost their jobs, homes, friends and families by those devastating actions.  Attorney General Grewal and his senior staff should be commended for taking this deep dive to explore these terrible law enforcement practices, expose the truth, and reconcile with members of the LGBTQ community.” 

A full list of the 126 enforcement actions vacated appears as an appendix to Attorney General Grewal’s directive.