In a reversal of previous statements, law enforcement officials now say they stepped up the police presence at Art All Night last weekend after rumor circulated on social media on Saturday that there could be violence at the event.
Mercer County Prosecutor Angelo Onofri issued a statement on Thursday afternoon saying that a retired Hamilton Township police officer saw a Facebook post about a planned shooting at the art festival and passed the information along to the Trenton Police Department at about 2 p.m. on Saturday. According to Onofri, Trenton police officers acted on the information immediately, resulting in an enhanced police presence at the event. Onofri said the the additional manpower “facilitated a swift containment of the shooting incident, and more deaths or injuries would likely have occurred without the warning.”
Artworks Executive Director Lauren Otis said organizers of the annual event worked with the Trenton Police Department leadership and the mayor of Trenton for months before the event to develop a comprehensive security and public safety plan. The public safety and security plans included having a large number of uniformed Trenton Police Officers, Mercer County Sheriff’s officers, and a private security detail at the event. The plan called for additional deployment of law enforcement if deemed necessary by Trenton Police.
Otis said on Saturday at 8 p.m., there were four uniformed Trenton Police officers, as well as four Mercer County Sheriff’s officers and a detail of 14 licensed private security members, at the event. The police presence at the event increases throughout the evening as deemed necessary by the police.
“Myself and Art All Night Event Director Joseph Kuzemka, and our 14-man private security detail were in constant contact with law enforcement as we worked with them to maintain order. Over 2 hours before the shooting, Art All Night fully and without hesitation complied with Trenton Police’s request to shut down all outdoors activities, and ultimately close down the event completely,” Otis said, adding that prior to the shooting, there were more than 40 law enforcement officials from multiple jurisdictions in addition to the private security detail at the event working with the leaders of ArtWorks to disperse the crowd as the event was closing down.
“The shooting that occurred at Art All Night is an unprecedented tragedy for the innocent victims and their families, for attendees, for the vibrant regional arts community, for Trenton, for New Jersey, for the nation. We commend City of Trenton Police and other law enforcement on doing an incredible job containing a situation that without their presence could have been far worse,” Otis said. “For 11 years, Art All Night has been an event which celebrates diversity of expression, individual creativity, and unity and connection among the people of Trenton and surrounding communities. Unfortunately, the tragedy of this year’s Art All Night affected the lives of many unfortunate victims. Our thoughts and prayers continue to be with them.”
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New Jersey Assemblyman Reed Gusciora, the mayor-elect of Trenton, reintroduced a bill today that would eliminate the presumption of non-incarceration for possessing a stolen weapon. “The reports about Art All Night are that one of the weapons used was a stolen weapon. I’ve decided to reintroduce this bill. It’s an important issue. We do have to have that serious discussion not only with the community, but to make sure such situations are safer in the future.” Guscioria mistakenly previously said in a statement to the press that there were only four police officers at the event. There were four police officers being paid overtime by ArtWorks to work at the event, but numerous other officers were present in addition to the hired security detail.
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Advocates for stricter gun laws in New Jersey hosted a phone conference Thursday calling on legislative leaders reconsider a decision to exclude increased gun purchase fees from the state budget proposal. Gun purchase fees that have not been increased in New Jersey since 1966.