This post is also available in: Español (Spanish)
NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ—On September 1, a Highland Park man was sentenced to serve 64 years in state prison for shooting and robbing a 22-year-old New Brunswick resident more than three-and-a-half years ago.
Lewis C. Hooper, age 32, was sentenced by Superior Court Judge Alberto Rivas at the Middlesex County Courthouse for his role in the crime.
"As a persistent offender, [he] must serve 85 percent of the term before he can be eligible for parole," according to a press release from the Middlesex County Prosecutor's Office (MCPO).
Mario Lombardo, a nurse at St. Peter's University Hospital, was paralyzed in the on January 15, 2013 shooting outside his home on Somerset Street, which was described as a robbery by authorities.
It was still early in the evening that Tuesday, though the sun had set a half-hour prior, when the attack occurred at 5:26pm.
Lombardo was shot in the head in the robbery that "severely disabled" him, according to the MCPO and police radio transmissions. Lombardo's mother told the City Council he had been "paralyzed" and would never be able to work again.
Hooper pleaded guilty on June 17 to a number of charges that he had recently been indicted on:
- attempted murder
- armed robbery
- unlawful possession of a weapon
- possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose
- hindering his apprehension and the apprehension of two co-defendants
- resisting arrest
Middlesex County First Assistant Prosecutor Christopher Kuberiet handled the case.
"The victim, now 25 years old, survived the shooting, but is severely disabled," reads the MCPO press release.
New Brunswick police caught Hooper in a backyard of a home on Somerset Street, following a footchase just minutes after the shooting, according to police radio transmissions.
Hooper's co-defendants include Chinnika Lockhart, a 29-year-old Franklin Township resident who was arrested shortly after Hooper. Lockhart was apprehended at a house on Home Street in Somerset, just across the county line from New Brunswick.
Lockhart pleaded guilty in the case and is serving a nine-year prison term with no chance of parole until she completes 85 percent of the sentence.
Another co-defendant, 30-year-old Mohamed Kamara, turned himself into authorities a few days after the violent incident. Kamara is the only one of the defendants still awaiting trial.
Relatives of Lombardo, including his mother Gemini Candelario, attended the March 6, 2013 City Council meeting in New Brunswick to speak about gun violence and how it has affected their family.
"I brought up my kids the right way. I didn't bring up my kids in the friggin' streets. And then he gets gunned down?!?" exclaimed Candelario during an emotional speech. "What are the cops doing here?"
"We have to do something. It's getting worse," Candelario's brother told the City Council, saying that he had been shot at multiple time in his work as a bail bondsman.
The number of gun crimes in the city subsequently increased in 2014 and 2015. So far in 2016, there has been a modest decrease in the number of gun crimes compared to the prior year.