NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ—A city employee assigned to read water meters transported a gunshot victim to the hospital after a domestic violence shooting left the 36-year-old man wounded on Lee Avenue.
According to an eyewitness, the public worker “saved the man’s life” by pulling over the blue New Brunswick Water Utility vehicle that he was driving, helping the victim into the vehicle, and shuttling him to the hospital.
The chaos erupted at approximately 11:07am on March 16, when the victim was allegedly shot by a 34-year-old woman inside one of the residences on Lee Avenue near the intersection with Delavan Street. Police said the shots were fired while the two were “having a verbal dispute.”
The location is adjacent to two schools for young children, Redshaw Elementary and Livingston Elementary, leading to a shelter in place order, and forcing parents and buses to take alternate routes as Lee Avenue remained shut down.
About four hours after the shooting, at approximately 3pm, police arrested Janai Martinez, a 34-year-old woman, at 25 Kirkpatrick Street, headquarters for the New Brunswick Police Department (NBPD) and Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office (MCPO).
Superintendent of Schools Aubrey Johnson has not responded to inquiries about the incident, and neither has the spokesperson for the prosecutor’s office.
The official statement did not explain the relationship between the victim and the shooter, other than to say: “The victim was known to Martinez prior to the incident.”
Investigating authorities continued to stay quiet about the incident for another 20 hours after Martinez’s arrest, and even then, police and prosecutors did not publicly confirm the role of the city worker, referring to him only vaguely as “a passerby” or “a good Samaritan.”
“The victim was transported to the hospital after flagging down a passerby,” reads the official statement from the MCPO, issued in conjunction with the NBPD shortly before noon on March 17.
The New Brunswick City Government issued its own statement on social media, indicating that the victim “exited the residence and was brought to an area hospital by a good Samaritan where he received treatment and is listed in stable condition.”
Prosecutors did not respond to questions about the actions of the water utility worker, the victim’s condition, and the hometown of the suspect (The MCPO-NBPD release said New Brunswick, while the city government’s post said Somerset).
While it’s unclear why law enforcement authorities are leaving this part of the story out of the official narrative, at least one city official, Water Utility Director Alexei Walus, confirmed the actions of the employee and his position with the government.
“He wants to remain anonymous,” Walus said of the heroic water meter reader.
Gun violence continues to plague many of the city’s neighborhoods. It’s at least the third shooting this month in the city, with all three occurring in the Second Ward.
On March 8, a 33-year-old Trenton man was shot in the area of Remsen Avenue and Townsend Street. Three days later, police responded to South Talmadge Street, after residents heard gunshots, and property damage to a pair of homes.
Police have categorized both of those incidents as aggravated assaults with firearms. As of March 13, no arrests had been made in either case.
The latest shooting on Lee Avenue comes less than three weeks after an 18-year-old was shot in the area of Joyce Kilmer Park, located in the Fourth Ward, just three blocks away.
The young man was injured in the February 25 shooting, struck in the torso with gunfire at approximately 11:05am.
“The preliminary investigation suggests a verbal altercation occurred near the store at the corner of Joyce Kilmer Avenue and Delevan Street between four or five individuals just prior to the shooting,” according to the city government.
If police have identified a suspect, or made an arrest in that case, they haven’t announced it to the public. The MCPO did not immediately respond to a request for updated information.
It was far from the first shooting in the area of the city park, which has become a hotspot for violence in recent years, with at least four shootings taking place in or near the park since August 2022.
At 5:25pm on August 20, a 24-year-old man was hospitalized after being shot there. Five days later, a 17-year-old was charged with four crimes including attempted murder. Then, on September 8, a second suspect, 18-year-old named Franklin Bonilla-Rivera, was also arrested and charged with the same crimes.
Then, on September 12 at 12:47pm, NBPD Officer James Bennett “observed a shooting incident” in the area, according to police records.
Police say Brandon Terrell Smith targeted a 37-year-old man from Somerset, but Smith’s gunshots missed and “a bullet broke a window” of the home at 274 Comstock Street. Bennett reportedly caught up with Smith “after a short foot pursuit,” arresting him and filing charges of Attempted Murder, Aggravated Assault, and other weapons offenses.
Martinez has been charged with similar offenses, but police are considering the March 16 shooting a domestic violence incident, according to a document provided by NBPD in response to New Brunswick Today’s request under section 3b of the Open Public Records Act (OPRA).
Martinez is currently lodged at the Middlesex County Jail in North Brunswick, and is expected to appear remotely for Central Judicial Processing Court at 2:30pm on March 18. Prosecutors are seeking that she be detained pretrial, and she is tentatively scheduled for a detention hearing on Tuesday, March 21.
Anyone with information or surveillance footage of the area is asked to call Detective Brandt Gregus of the NBPD at (732) 745-5217 or Detective Kevin Schroeck of the MCPO at (732) 745-4054.
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.