NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ—Two victims of a recent shooting, and their family members, are taking issue with public statements made by New Brunswick Police that indicated they were involved in an "ongoing dispute" with their shooter, who remains unidentified.
Brothers Ryan Howard and Ricky Drake say they were surprised to see that the police released their names, but still have not identified the shooter publicly.
"There's no suspects," said Howard.
"The police claim they have footage of the car and everything… I don't even know what's going on."
Both men said they were dropping off a relative who had just played in a semi-pro football game in Bridgewater, when shots rang out in the garden apartment complex on October 25.
"My back was turned," said Howard. "We were hugging everybody. We were about to leave."
"My car was running [at the time of the shooting]," said Drake, a father of two who also plays on the New Jersey Bravehearts football team, but had not played that evening.
Both men were shot in the leg, according to police.
"Before you know it… I yelled real quick that I was hit," said Drake, who added he was sorry that his brother would have to delay a scheduled internship because of the injury he sustained.
Howard told New Brunswick Today that he surrounds himself with "an entourage of postive people" and that his family is well-respected in town and not involved in gangs or law-breaking.
"We're not those kind of guys. Everybody around town knows that."
Sources around town said the shooting may have been attempted retaliation for the recent killing of a 17-year-old in a church parking lot on Route 27, but that the shooters were both misinformed about their target, and definitely not targeting either of the brothers.
"They got bad information," said the source.
But a statement issued by NBPD Captain JT Miller said that the department's initial investigation, "suggests this shooting stems from an ongoing dispute between the victims, an acquaintance and the shooter."
"That is not what went down at all," Howard told New Brunswick Today.
The brothers say they have no idea who shot them and do not have ongoing disputes with anyone.
"There was no dispute, nothing leading up to this. It just happened. We just happened to be there," said Howard. "I read [the police statement] for the first time yesterday… That's not what it is."
"That's not what happened. I'm not affiliated with nothing," said the recent graduate of Montclair State who has his sights set on medical school. "I don't even know why that happened."
Captain Miller did not respond to questions about the October 27 press statement that included Howard and Drake's names.
Howard said he knew the complex had experienced an uptick in violence this summer, but he said he was on his way out when bullets starting "flying everywhere."
"I went to college to get out of New Brunswick," Howard said, adding he was just "in the wrong place at the wrong time."
"All I am happy about is my brother and I are OK," said Howard who added he just wants police to "get the facts straight and find out who did it."
New Brunswick Police have requested that anyone with information about the shooting call Detective Brandt Gregus at (732) 745-5217.
Charlie is the founder and editor of New Brunswick Today, and the winner of the Awbrey Award for Community-Oriented Local Journalism. He is a proud Rutgers University journalism graduate and a community organizer, and was an independent candidate for Mayor of New Brunswick in 2018.