June 20, 2021

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Man charged after mass shooting at N.J. party was clutching handgun, complaint says – NJ.com

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The man charged with firearms violations in the Saturday night shooting that killed two and wounded 12 was arrested in a neighboring town, laying beside a tree with a gun in his hand, the criminal complaint against him alleges.

Local and state authorities announced the arrest of Kevin K. Dawkins, 36, at a Monday morning press conference led by Gov. Phil Murphy. They declined to elaborate on how he’s allegedly involved in the 11:30 p.m. Saturday shooting at a house on East Commerce Street in Fairfield that sent partygoers scattering as they fled gunfire.

New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal said the shooting, at a birthday party, was a “targeted attack,” and officials expect more arrests.

Kevin Dawkins

Kevin Dawkins in a Cumberland County jail photo.

The complaint says police in Bridgeton, a neighboring town and the county seat of Cumberland County, received an anonymous call after the shooting reporting a person with a gun in a wooded area behind the Maplewood Gardens apartments.

Officers arrived at the apartments, on Maple Drive, and found Dawkins, “laying down beside a tree with the handgun clutched in his right hand,” the complaint says. Officers ordered Dawkins to drop the weapon, and he did, the document says.

Records show Dawkins’ arrest, by Officer Dominic Pizzo, occurred at about 1:30 a.m. Sunday. The gun is a .40-caliber Glock 23 model that was loaded with 22 bullets.

Dawkins lives in the 800 block of East Commerce Street, which along with the Maple Street apartments, are each just under three miles from the shooting scene.

Bridgeton Police Chief Michael Gaimari said in a statement that Pizzo and the officers had assisted the New Jersey State Police at the shooting scene just before the arrest, and all information pertaining to Dawkins’ arrest was handed over to that agency.

“This was an excellent job by Officer Pizzo and other officers who assisted in apprehending this suspect without injury to themselves or the suspect as it could have gone south quickly,” Gaimari said.

Dawkins was initially held on four firearms charges, including unlawfully possessing a firearm, possessing it for an unlawful purpose and possessing a firearm as a convicted felon. Later Monday, records show Bridgeton police added two more charges against Dawkins relating to having a gun as a felon convicted of a serious crime.

He appeared in Superior Court of Cumberland County during a virtual appearance Monday afternoon. He will appear again Thursday for a detention hearing, where the Cumberland County Prosecutor’s Office will argue he be detained pending trial, Prosecutor Jennifer Webb-McRae said.

Webb-McRae declined to elaborate on Dawkins Monday evening, citing an ongoing investigation.

Asia Hester, 25, and Kevin Elliott, 30, died in the shooting and several victims remain hospitalized Monday.

South Jersey house party shooting

Police investigate an overnight shooting that killed two and wounded 12 in Fairfield Township, Sunday, May 23, 2021. Tim Hawk | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com

Staff Reporter Matt Gray contributed to this report.

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Kevin Shea may be reached at kshea@njadvancemedia.com.

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