Trenton Shooting Comes at A Time of New Jersey Efforts to Speak Out Against Violence

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Domenick Reuter | AFP | Getty Images

By contributing writer, Emily Colby

Trenton, NJ- Around 2:45 am EST, gunshots rang out as innocent bystanders ducked under cars and hid behind buildings in a panic. The action took place at a Trenton, New Jersey 24-hour art festival that left 22 injured, 17 by gunshot and one dead.

The two alleged shooters linked to the chaos are Tajaij Wells (32) and Amir Armstrong (23). Armstrong is now in custody and Wells was shot dead by police arrival to the scene. It is not currently believed that the arts festival was targeted, but was rather located in the crosshairs of local gang violence.

Under newly elected, Democratic governor, Philip D. Murphy, the New Jersey capital has been endeavoring to reinvigorate Trenton’s art community as a means of combating local crime. Sunday’s art festival was known as an annual tradition and also seen as emblematic of these efforts to curb violence.

It was meant to be a festival open to all ages and experience levels. Art submissions came from amateurs to professionals and attendees were all ages. One of those injured was only 13-years-old.

New Jersey officials were quick to respond with heartfelt remarks. Governor Phil Murphy appeared the following morning at a Trenton Baptist Church service where he spoke about stricter gun laws.

Trenton Mayor, Eric Jackson, also a Democrat, spoke to reporters, calling what had happened as a “public health issue.”

New Jersey, Commissioner of Health, Shereef Elnahal spoke about the aftermath of the shooting on Twitter, saying that he was speaking with two hospitals in Trenton (St. Francis Medical Center and Capital Health Regional Medical Center) and was assured that mental health counseling was being made available to the victims and their families who were being closely cared for in New Jersey, emergency rooms.

The tragic irony of the festival designed to make a statement against violence through art and community togetherness is palpable. Many witnesses reported the violence breaking out against the backdrop of a mural with the words “imagine a world free of gun violence.”

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