New Jersey Trooper Shot In Confrontation With Angry Mob At Robbery Scene
Pittsgrove, NJ – A lone New Jersey State Police (NJSP) detective was confronted by an angry mob and shot as he was investigating a report of a home invasion last Saturday night.
The incident began at the Harding Woods Mobile Home Park on Harding Highway at approximately 6 p.m., when a group of five women allegedly forced their way inside a home and assaulted a female victim, NJ.com reported.
The attack allegedly occurred after someone made a derogatory comment about one of the attackers’ family members, police said.
The suspects stole the woman’s iPhone as they pummeled her, leaving her with a lacerated lung and a broken rib, NJ.com reported.
A passerby saw the attack and called police, and the victim was transported to Inspira Medical Center Elmer for treatment, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported.
NJSP Detective Richard Hershey, a plainclothes trooper in an unmarked vehicle, traveled to the scene to process it further at approximately 10:30 p.m., NJ.com reported.
But as he was conducting his investigation, a “caravan” of five vehicles drove up to the home and several people got out and confronted him.
Det. Hershey identified himself as a law enforcement officer and ordered the mob to leave the area, and they initially started to comply.
But as the vehicles began driving away, one occupant opened fire on Det. Hershey, hitting him in the upper leg, NJ.com reported.
The detective immediately returned fire.
A female bystander who was not involved with the group was shot in the leg during the exchange of gunfire, but it is unclear who fired the bullet that struck her.
A homeowner who lives next door to the residence where the robbery and assault took place said that the suspects riddled his home with bullets, even though he wasn’t their target, WCAU reported.
Det. Hershey was rushed to Cooper University Hospital in Camden, according to NJ.com.
He underwent surgery the next morning, and is now in stable condition, WCAU reported.
The female bystander was treated for her gunshot wound at the hospital and has since been released.
The gunman, later identified as 21-year-old Najzeir “Naz” Hutchings, was arrested on charges of aggravated assault on a police officer, first-degree attempted murder, possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose, and unlawful possession of a weapon, NJ.com reported.
Colby Opperman, 18, and Kareen “Kai” Warner, 19, were both arrested on charges of second-degree unlawful possession of weapons.
According to a probable cause affidavit, multiple witnesses told police that Warner was carrying a gun at the time of the attack on Det. Hershey, and two people said they saw Warner discharge the weapon, NJ.com reported.
Although the shooting was not captured on video, the attack on the woman who was assaulted earlier in the day was livestreamed on social media.
Police arrested 52-year-old Mayra Roblero, 32-year-old Jazmin Valentin, 43-year-old Yomari Lazu, 22-year-old Iramari Lazu, and 39-year-old Maria Betancourt in connection with the initial attack, NJ.com reported.
They have all been charged with conspiracy to commit burglary, third-degree burglary, conspiracy to commit robbery, robbery, and aggravated assault.
Iramari Lazu was also a part of the caravan of suspects who confronted Det. Hershey prior to the shooting, police said.
According to prosecutors, all eight suspects could face additional charges, WCAU reported.
“This shocking attack on a member of the State Police who was working with us on an investigation demonstrates what our officers risk every day to protect us,” Salem County Prosecutor John Lenahan said in a virtual press conference announcing the eight arrests on Tuesday, according to NJ.com.
“We are grateful that he is recovering and we are gratified that, working together, we were able to bring those responsible for that shooting – and the home invasion that preceded it – to justice,” Lenahan added.
Attorney General Gurbir Grewal said the state will not tolerate attacks on police, NJ.com reported.
“We have zero tolerance for a hostile mob that threatens a law enforcement officer performing his duties,” he said during the press conference. “We have zero tolerance for those that attack a law enforcement officer. And we have zero tolerance for a cowardly gunman that targets a detective in a drive-by shooting in the middle of the night in the midst of a pandemic.”
NJSP Colonel Patrick Callahan said that he has been in daily contact with Det. Hershey and his family since the shooting, NJ.com reported.
“We will have him and his family in our prayers as he moves forward through his recovery," Col. Callahan said. “He’s got a little bit of a road ahead of him. I think he might be in Cooper for another week or so, but his spirits are phenomenally high and we do expect a full recovery.”
The colonel said there was never any question about whether or not law enforcement would locate and arrest the gunman who shot Det. Hershey.
“Anyone attempting to murder a New Jersey State Trooper, or any member of law enforcement, will find no safe haven. Our pursuit will be relentless, unwavering and swift,” he said, according to WCAU. “Fortunately, we did not suffer a tragedy.”