Day: March 6, 2023

Toms River Man Arrested in January Attack on Concert Crowd at Trinity Episcopal Parish in Asbury Park Church 

Man Threw Smoke Bombs, Tried Pepper Spraying People While Shouting “White Lives Matter” 

March 6, 2023

TRENTON – Attorney General Matthew J. Platkin and the Division of Criminal Justice today announced the arrest of an Ocean County man charged with throwing smoke bombs into a crowd and attempting to pepper spray people leaving an anti-racism concert at the Trinity Episcopal Parish in Asbury Park in January. 

Nicholas G. Mucci, 28, of Toms River, is charged with causing or risking widespread injury or damage (2nd degree), possession of a weapon (explosives) for unlawful purposes (2nd degree), arson (3rd degree), aggravated assault (3rd degree), terroristic threats (3rd degree), and possession of a destructive device (3rd degree).

Mucci was arrested Saturday night by investigators from the New Jersey Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness (NJOHSP) under the leadership of Director Laurie Doran, detectives from the Division of Criminal Justice under the leadership of Chief Weldon Powell, and troopers from the New Jersey State Police under the leadership of Colonel Patrick Callahan, with assistance from the Federal Bureau of Investigations under the leadership of Special Agent in Charge James Dennehy. Mucci is being held at the Monmouth County Jail pending a detention hearing.

“New Jersey is, and always will be, a state that values the rich diversity of all cultures, religions, and ideals. This attack targeted people exercising their freedom of expression as they left a house of worship,” said Attorney General Platkin. “Our perseverance in investigating and bringing to justice the person responsible for this attack demonstrates our commitment to protecting the rights of all New Jerseyans to live free from the threat of violence and fear.” 

“The alleged actions of this defendant presented a clear risk to the public that could have ended in tragedy,” said Director Pearl Minato of the Division of Criminal Justice. “I commend the members of law enforcement for their collaborative work in identifying and apprehending the defendant, who will now face justice for his alleged crimes.” 

“This investigation was a great example of outstanding teamwork and collaboration among all levels of government,” said Director Laurie Doran, of the New Jersey Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness. “I am proud of the men and women of NJOHSP and all of our partner agencies who protected the residents of New Jersey by successfully mitigating this serious threat.”  

The incident occurred on January 27, 2023, during a concert at the Trinity Episcopal Parish on Asbury Avenue in Asbury Park. The concert was organized by a group known as the “One People’s Project”, which bills itself as an anti-racism, social justice organization. 

According to the charges and documents filed in the case, at around 9:00 p.m., as the concert was ending, Mucci, wearing a black face covering approached the church and blocked the attendees from leaving. He allegedly yelled, “White lives matter, too,” and threw two smoke bombs toward the church and into the exiting crowd before driving off in a dark colored SUV. Surveillance video of the event, captured by the church’s closed caption video camera, showed a vehicle resembling Mucci’s SUV approach the church and two items being thrown from the driver’s side of the vehicle. As smoke began filling the air and the crowd became visibly alarmed, the vehicle rapidly sped away. 

Witnesses reported seeing a dark colored vehicle circling the church following the incident. Shortly after 10:00 p.m., the same vehicle entered the church parking lot where a few remaining concert-goers still gathered. Mucci, still clad in a black face covering, allegedly exited the vehicle and attempted to pepper spray the group while again shouting, “White lives matter.” He then allegedly got back into his vehicle and left.

An investigation by NJOHSP and DCJ determined that a license plate reader installed in the area, identified a vehicle matching the description of a car known to be operated by Mucci as having been present when the incident occurred. Cell phone records obtained during the investigation, indicated that Mucci’s cell phone had “gone dark” during the time of the incident. Additionally, physical evidence recovered at the scene determined that the smoke bombs were purchased from a fireworks store in Morrisville, PA. The investigation revealed that Mucci allegedly purchased identical items from the store on October 23, 2022 and provided out-of-state photo identification in order to make the purchase.

Deputy Attorney General Amy Sieminski is prosecuting the case for the Division of Criminal Justice, under the supervision of Deputy Directors Theresa Hilton and Erik Daab. 

The investigation was led by NJOHSP Sergeant James Fry, of the OHSP Operations with assistance from Detectives John Ronaghan, David Reiff and Pete Appleman as main case agents, under the supervision of Lt. Jason Krayl of NJOHSP. 

The following agencies provided valuable support, the Federal Bureau of Investigations, the New Jersey State Police, the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office, the Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office, the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office, the Ocean County Sheriff’s Office, the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office, the Wall Police Department, the Toms River Police Department, and the Berkeley Township Police Department.  

Second-degree charges carry a sentence of five to 10 years in state prison and a fine of up to $150,000. Third-degree charges carry a sentence of three of five years in prison and a fine of up to $15,000.

The charges are merely accusations and the defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty.

Uber Driver Charged With Criminal Sexual Contact

March 6, 2023

TUCKERTON, NJ (OCEAN)–Ocean County Prosecutor Bradley D. Billhimer announced that on March 5, 2023, Ronald Yaniak, 56, of Little Egg Harbor Township, was charged with Criminal Sexual Contact in connection with an incident that occurred in Tuckerton on March 4, 2023.

On March 4, 2023, the Borough of Tuckerton Police Department received a 911 call from a female stating that she was touched inappropriately by an Uber driver while she was utilizing the ride-sharing service.  An investigation by the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office Special Victim’s Unit and the Borough of Tuckerton Police Department determined that the victim and three fellow passengers called for an Uber ride from Barnegat to Tuckerton.  During the ride, the Uber driver inappropriately touched the victim – who was seated in the front passenger seat of the vehicle. 

Further investigation revealed that Yaniak was the driver of the subject vehicle and that he did, in fact, touch the victim inappropriately.  On March 5, 2023, Yaniak was charged with Criminal Sexual Contact at the Tuckerton Police Department, processed, and released on a summons pending a future appearance in Ocean County Superior Court. 

Prosecutor Billhimer acknowledges the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office Special Victim’s Unit and Borough of Tuckerton Police Department for their collaborative efforts in connection with this investigation.

The charges referenced above are merely accusations and the press and public are reminded that all defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

R.P.C.  3.6(b)(6).

Two Juveniles Sentenced To Probation For Parkway Fire

March 6, 2023

BRICK TOWNSHIP, NJ (OCEAN)–Ocean County Prosecutor Bradley D. Billhimer has announced the resolution of charges brought against two juveniles from Brick Township for the arson that occurred on the Garden State Parkway on January 19, 2022, which shut down the northbound and southbound lanes of traffic near milepost 91 in Brick Township for approximately 10 hours.  Although the charges were resolved in late 2022, the State’s intention to identify the juveniles by name in a subsequent public disclosure was opposed by attorneys for the juveniles in motions pending before the court; those motions were only recently decided by the court in the juveniles’ favor in February 2023, when it was ordered that the juveniles could be identified solely by their initials.

On Wednesday, January 19, 2022, at approximately 5:00 p.m., New Jersey State Police responded to a report of a fire in the area of milepost 91 on the Garden State Parkway in Brick Township.  During the investigation, State Police Detectives determined that the fire was started within a drainage culvert that runs underneath the Garden State Parkway – from the 91 north entrance ramp to the 91 south exit ramp.  Further investigation revealed that two juveniles, I. J., 15, and A.R., 14, were responsible for the arson and various acts of delinquency related to that event. 

Late last year, both juveniles pleaded guilty to Arson and Criminal Mischief, and admitted that a Christmas tree inside the drainage culvert was purposely lit on fire, resulting in the extensive damage to the area.  Both I.J. and A.R. were sentenced to 60 days in the Ocean County Juvenile Detention Center as a condition of three years juvenile probation.  Additionally, the Court ordered $15,000 in restitution to be split evenly between the juveniles.  Finally, both juveniles were ordered to complete 50 hours of community service and attend and complete a fire setter’s education program.  

Prosecutor Billhimer acknowledges the diligent efforts of Assistant Prosecutor Iva Krasteva who handled the case on behalf of the State, as well as the New Jersey State Police, Brick Township Police Department, and New Jersey Department of Transportation, for their collaborative efforts in connection with this investigation.

Photos and video by: Jersey Shore Fire Response

Vehicle Fires Under Investigation In Hopewell Township

March 6, 2023

HOPEWELL TOWNSHIP – Hopewell Police say that a fire occurred at approximately 8:30 a.m. this morning, in a parking lot of the Captial Health Medical Center Hopewell Campus. The fire totally destroyed two vehicles – a 2019 Subaru CrossTrek and a 2017 Honda Civic LX. The fire also damaged two other vehicles in the vicinity – damaged tire and damaged front bumper. The fire occurred in a grass divider which separates the parking aisles. The vehicles were unoccupied at the time, and there were no injuries. The quick response from the Hopewell Valley Emergency Services Unit, Union Fire Company, Pennington Fire Department, West Trenton Fire Department and the Hopewell Fire Department prevented further loss of property. All fires in the Township are investigated as suspicious in nature until proven otherwise. This fire is no exception and is undergoing a criminal investigation, which includes sifting through the debris. Hopewell Township Police are working closely with the Hopewell Valley Emergency Services Unit to determine the source and cause of the fire. Anyone with additional information, please contact Detective Adam Liotta at 609-737-3100 or

Pennington Fire Company Facebook photo