NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ—It’s been over two weeks since nine people were shot and two young lives were cut short in a hail of gunfire on Delafield Street.
Their killers are still on the loose after what may be the worst mass shooting in the history of the Hub City.
But the city’s top official, eight-term Mayor James Cahill, has not issued a public statement, or made any public appearances since tragedy struck in the early hours of September 13.
Anthony Robinson and Lionel Macauley were killed when a group of four armed individuals hopped out of an automobile on Delafield Street and fired into the area of a house party around 1:30am.
The city government and the New Brunswick Police Department (NBPD) still have not mentioned it on their websites or Facebook pages, and no alert was issued via the city’s emergency alert system.
Conversely, Rutgers University’s police department issued text messages and email alerts to members of the community, confirming the investigation, and sharing multiple updates about it on social media.
It was one of at least three shooting incidents in the city so far this September, leaving behind a dozen gunshot victims or more.
Police, and in some cases county law enforcement, were already investigating several other gun crimes in the Hub City, including a September 2 shooting on Lee Avenue that injured two men and may have caused the death of a woman who lived on the block.
All three shootings New Brunswick Today has identified are currently missing from the city’s online crime map.
According to our sources, New Brunswick has also seen at least five robberies, including one at gunpoint on the street and another inside a home, and 26 burglaries, in September.
There have also been at least thirteen aggravated assaults, not counting the three shootings New Brunswick Today is aware of, and 31 “simple” assaults.
On September 20, a Rutgers-affiliated individual was robbed at gunpoint in the area of Wyckoff and Richardson Streets by three robbers who “took several items of value through force,” according to a statement released by Rutgers University Police Department (RUPD).
One week later, in the early morning hours of September 26, residents of Guilden Street were victimized by two robbers who invaded their home with handguns and stole “items of value.”
In both of those cases, NBPD did not release information about the violent crimes. Rather, the Rutgers University Police Department (RUPD) notified the “campus community,” leaving much of the city in the dark.
TWO YOUNG LIVES LOST IN YET ANOTHER SHOOTING
According to published reports, the men were both popular artists from neighboring Franklin Township, and the party was held in honor of Robinson, who was celebrating his 23rd birthday.
Robinson, the youngest of seven children, was known by the moniker “Antbandz” and had a two-year-old daughter.
His family has set up a Gofundme page to raise funds to help pay funeral expenses.
“He would do anything for his family and his friends. Most of you know him as a very known producer and a very high spirited man,” reads the page, which has raised over $10,000 for the deceased man’s family in less than two weeks.
Macauley, age 28, was an actor and spoken word artist who had played football and ran track for Franklin High School.
Macauley was laid to rest after a September 26 funeral service at United Methodist Church in downtown New Brunswick, where he was remembered fondly for his passion and personality.
Authorities have not announced any arrests or further details on their investigation. The last statement from prosecutors came one day after the killings, and revealed that a ninth gunshot victim had “come forward.”
According to the September 14 statement, four more Delafield Street victims were still hospitalized, with three in stable condition and one in “serious/critical condition.”
LONGTIME MAYOR REMAINS SILENT ABOUT VIOLENCE
Those who rely on the Mayor’s Twitter page or listen to his “COVID-19 podcast” would also be clueless about the killings, as Cahill has not posted in almost six months and has been absent from the podcast for three weeks.
Cahill has been Mayor since 1991, and defeated this reporter to secure his unprecedented eighth term in 2018.
In 2019, the city was named the eleventh “most miserable” city in the United States by Business Insider, which cited crime as a major problem.
“It has had problems with crime. In 2017, the city’s assaults with guns rose 64%,” read the report, linking to a New Brunswick Today article.
Both Cahill and his Police Director, Anthony “Tony” Caputo, make themselves elusive, with relatively few public appearances. Caputo has never attended a City Council meeting since re-assuming the role of Director in 2011 in an unusual move that allows him to “double dip,” collecting a salary and pension for the same job.
Cahill briefly attended a Council meeting in 2012, and then never again.
At the September 16 City Council meeting, both of Cahill’s running mates declined to comment on the mass shooting, including Councilman Kevin Egan who lives a short distance away from the scene of the crime.
At the same meeting, Cahill’s spokesperson Bert Baron had to correct inaccurate information provided during the Office of Emergency Management report, which stated “the Mayor continues to provide COVID-19 report podcasts on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.”
In reality, Cahill has been absent from the podcasts since Labor Day.
“The Mayor will appear periodically on the podcast, not on a regular basis as he had done when it was launched back in March,” Baron clarified. “But when there’s information to share the Mayor will appear on the podcast.”
We asked Baron when the Mayor will be commenting on this tragedy, and why the city government had not acknowledged this situation in any communications. He did not respond to the questions.
When this reporter spoke to Baron in person on September 24, Baron said he will speak to the Mayor about commenting on the shootings, saying, “I’ll talk to him about it.”
Cahill still has not addressed the violence, but did take the time to provide a quote to a Gothamist reporter about the city’s outdoor dining scene, telling Karen Rouse “the summer has been fairly successful, of course, from a relative perspective.”
According to Mass Shooting Tracker, the New Brunswick tragedy had the most total victims of any shooting in New Jersey so far this year.
The only deadlier shooting took place in Paterson on July 8, when four people were killed and three more were injured. Mass shootings also occurred in Newark, Jersey City and Trenton.
The last time New Jersey saw a mass shooting with nine victims was December 2019, when six people were killed in Jersey City and three others were injured by gunfire.
CITY COUNCIL GIVES STRANGE RESPONSES TO QUESTIONS
When asked if the killers were still on the loose, New Brunswick City Council President John Anderson responded with strange rhetoric, saying the shooting was “not very nice” and referring to the shooters as “gentlemen or ladies.”
“With the two people killed and other people shot by shooting, and the bullets coming out of the, uh, guns that were, by the gentlemen or ladies that pulled up there, it’s not very nice, it’s not very good, and it is a tragedy,” said Anderson.
It was of many odd statements made by the city’s legislators that night.
Asked why the city did not issue an emergency alert to the public about the mass shooting, using the NBPD’s Nixle system, Anderson again answered strangely.
“I don’t know about ‘mass shooting.’ Obviously they were intent on shooting anything that was in the way of the guns. It’s a process,” said Anderson.
“THIS IS NOT A WILD WEST CITY WHERE THERE’S SHOOTINGS ALL THE TIME.”
Councilman Glenn Fleming also made odd remarks, striking a defensive tone in response to the negative attention the city was getting: “This is not a wild west city where there’s shootings all the time.”
But when New Brunswick Today followed up by asking Fleming how many shootings there had been in New Brunswick this year, he had no idea.
“No, I can’t [tell you how many shootings there’s been in the city this year]. Go on with your questions,” said Fleming.
This reporter then directed the question to NBPD Captain JT Miller, who typically attends Council meetings in lieu of Director Caputo.
“I can’t tell you,” was Miller’s response.
Before opening up to the public for questions, Fleming made remarks that some members of the public criticized for creating a false equivalence between shootings where police pull the trigger and what happened here.
“If this was a police involved shooting, by now there would be rallies. There would be things going on,” said Fleming.
Fleming argued that people “should be just as outraged” about the recent shooting: “When we’re silent about stuff like this, it’s bound to happen again.”
And he was right about that.
Less than a week later, another person was shot in the city in the parking lot of the ALDI supermarket on Van Dyke Avenue, becoming at least the twelfth person to be struck and injured by New Brunswick gunfire in less than three weeks.
LOCAL POLICE REFUSE TO TRACK NUMBER OF SHOOTINGS
NBPD has refused to track or calculate how many shootings have taken place in the city this year, but our sources indicate the number is at least fifteen so far.
It wasn’t always this way. In early 2013, this reporter emailed the department’s spokesperson to ask how many “non-fatal” shootings occurred the prior year, sharing with the official an article on Newark’s police department examining how it tracks such shootings, and creating a new unit to investigate them.
Murders are always investigated by the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office, which inevitably provides at least some information about each such case via media releases that are usually made widely available.
But investigations into shootings where victims survive their injuries are often led by local police departments like NBPD, who are responsible for tracking and releasing information to the press and the public.
In the past, NBPD did not object to requests for such information, and frequently published press releases about serious incidents.
“There were 14 shooting incidents in 2012 where the injuries sustained by victims were non-fatal,” responded NBPD Captain JT Miller in 2013, thanking this reporter for our “patience.”
In April 2014, Miller confirmed there were 15 such incidents in 2013, and “In 2014 there have been 3 non-fatal shooting incidents to date.”
But that was the last time NBPD bothered to calculate those kind of stats for the press or share them with the public.
Miller never responded to a January 2015 email from this reporter asking for the final 2014 shooting statistics.
In recent years, Miller has responded to similar requests with an attitude.
After suggesting we file a public records request to determine the number of shootings ourselves, Miller rejected the request for the documents needed to see which aggravated assaults involved firearms. Instead, Miller cooked up his own incomplete and inconsistent report, which omitted many incidents.
Now, when we ask for the shooting statistics, Miller is quick to point out he does not work for New Brunswick Today.
“I am not your personal assistant and I will not be compiling research data for you regarding shooting statistics and other similar requests,” Miller responded to an inquiry on August 21.
The NBPD has only issued one single press release this year, another sign of the steep decline in the department’s transparency with the public.
AUTHORITIES EMPHASIZE NO CONNECTION TO RUTGERS
Governor Phil Murphy addressed New Brunswick’s mass shooting on September 25, after fielding a question from this reporter at one of his press briefings.
The Governor echoed the statements distancing Rutgers University from the violence, and offered no other substantive statement.
“I believe it has been determined, and it was determined relatively quickly, that no Rutgers community members were a part of that,” said Murphy. “That’s my sense at least.”
Murphy did not offer condolences to the deceased or ask for the public’s help in solving the case.
The response struck a very different tone than just five days earlier, when Murphy began his remarks to the press by seeking the public’s help with a Camden County shooting where no one was hurt.
“I will say that I am shocked and disgusted by the despicable and cowardly actions of an individual, or individuals, we don’t know yet, who fired six rounds into the house of two Camden police officers last night while the couple was at home with their 10-month-old child,” said Murphy, urging people to contact authorities with any information about the crime.
Murphy made no such plea for assistance regarding the New Brunswick shooting, which saw more than forty rounds of ammunition fired by at least four shooters.
In response to our questions at the September 25 press briefing in Trenton, State Police Superintendent Patrick Callahan stated that his agency is involved in the mass shooting investigation.
“I know it’s twelve days into it, Charlie, and it still remains an extremely active investigation with ballistic and forensic evidence being analyzed, interviews, the search for video,” said Callahan.
The State Police website no longer provides a specific breakdown of statistics on aggravated assaults into categories: assaults with firearms (most of which are shootings), assaults with a “knife or cutting instrument,” and serious assaults without a weapon (“Hands, Fists, Feet, etc.”).
The limited information available on the state website shows that, based on the first seven months of the year, New Brunswick is on track to have the most aggravated assaults in any year since 2014.
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, a community organizer, and a former independent candidate for mayor of New Brunswick.