Less than 12 hours after a 19-year-old Jersey City man was gunned down and a 10-year-old girl was critically wounded on Ocean Avenue on Easter Sunday, life seemed back to normal on the street—except for a memorial set up for previous murders in the area.
Hudson County Prosecutor Esther Suarez issued a statement on April 17 that gave some details of the crime and the suspects.
Suarez said that on April 16, at approximately 10:05 p.m., Jersey City police officers, working in plain clothes, observed shots being fired in the vicinity of 379 Ocean Ave. in Jersey City.
One man, Jimmy Gregory, 19, of Jersey City, was fatally shot during the incident, and was pronounced dead on the scene.
A second victim, a 10-year-old girl from East Orange, was shot in the torso while sitting in a nearby vehicle. She was rushed to Jersey City Medical Center. Doctors performed surgery, and she remains in stable condition.
News reports claim two hooded men on bicycles opened fired while passing by.
Several police officers in the area immediately pursued the suspects and they were apprehended shortly before 10:10 p.m. Officers also recovered two handguns during the chase.
“This is a good place. I’ve lived here for 20 years. It’s okay.” – a resident near Ocean Avenue
Almost back to normal?
Hours later, the neighborhood seemed unaffected for the most part.
A few Easter decorations still clung to the fences of nearby houses. Workmen resumed renovations in a neighborhood filled with rundown houses, struggling to retain a sense of peace with lawn ornaments in front and outdoor grills in their back yards.
“This is a good place,” said one man walking up Fulton Avenue with his family, block away from the site of the sixth murder so far this year. “I’ve lived here for 20 years. It’s okay.”
Yet near his feet on the sidewalk at Fulton and Ocean Avenues were the remains of a memorial to previous murders that had taken place here, a few dozen glasses containing candles and a half dozen half finished bottles of Hennessey.
Of the six murders that had taken place due to gun violence in Jersey City so far this year, four of them took place within these three blocks.
While a TV news truck remained on the scene along with a single police car, most people on the street the next morning seemed not overly alarmed.
Two men talking in front of a string of houses across Ocean from the site of shooting had little to say about it.
“Everything you need to know is already out there already,” one man said, a small dog sniffing the sidewalk near his feet.
The other man said he was at work at the time of the shooting and saw nothing he could report.
A man standing on the site near a mini-mart philosophized about life and death. “If you take a life you have to give back something,” he mumbled, but would not comment on the crime.
A Department of Public Works truck had already cleaned up some of the debris, including some of the makeshift memorial some residents of the area had left, leaving only a few flapping pieces of yellow crime tape to indicate that anything had happened.
This shooting had taken place nearly on the doorstep of the New Jerusalem Assembly of God Church, one of the numerous store front places of worship that occupy those blocks.
Although the sound of a backhoe filled the air along with the squeal of bus brakes and the loud twitter of spring birds, the scene had an eerie sense of denial, of people trying to maintain order where chaos reigned, all seemingly aware that this has happened before and will happen again.
Poverty and a glorification of violence partly responsible
Councilwoman Joyce Watterman, who also serves as a pastor in Jersey City, said most of the violent crimes like these are committed by “a few bad seeds” and that for the most part people are simply trying to make a living.
Many crimes in the city, she said, come out of desperation and lack of hope, an intense poverty that often pushes young men and women into a life of crime. She said lack of jobs often leads to lack of hope.
She said some young people mistakenly see violence as hip or cool, part of glorification of violence that leads to incidents like these.
Councilman Daniel Rivera called the incident a senseless shooting.
“My heart goes out to the family of the young man that lost his life,” he said. “I also visited the young girl, she’s doing better. I want to give thanks for a job well done by our Jersey City Police Department. Anytime you have innocent children getting caught up in gun fire like that is unacceptable.”
While community leaders intend to hold vigils in an effort to make their case to the city for help with the issues leading up to these things, the prosecutor’s office said this murder is still under investigation with assistance from the Jersey City Police Department.
Anyone with information is asked to contact the Office of the Hudson County Prosecutor at (201) 915-1345 or to leave an anonymous tip on the Hudson County Prosecutor’s official website at: http://www.hudsoncountyprosecutorsofficenj.org/homicide-tip/. All information will be kept confidential.
This is the sixth murder in Jersey City this year and took place in a part of the city noted for gun violence.
Al Sullivan may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.