Friday, May 1, 2009

Bullets Fly in New Brunswick

By Shaun Van Moerkerken

It is sad to think that in today’s society, bank robberies and gun-related deaths are a daily occurrence in the headlines of our major newspapers. These traumatic events not only affect the people involved, but also change the lives of innocent bystanders who happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. On Thursday, March 12 at about 6:30 p.m., four suspects fought a gun battle with police outside St. Peter’s University Hospital in New Brunswick in connection to a robbery at the Bank of America branch on Route 27 and Veronica Avenue in Franklin, New Jersey (

The suspects drove a green mini van and led police officers on a wild chase through Franklin and into New Brunswick ( After trying to lose police, the suspects trapped themselves at a dead end that abuts St. Peter’s Hospital, near the Rutgers University Campus and in a neighborhood where many students live. At this time “one or more” of the suspects began to open fire on police officers, said New Brunswick Police Director Anthony Caputo ( No policemen were shot during this firefight. All suspects involved with the chase were wounded by gunfire and immediately rushed to the hospital, police said.

“I can’t believe that this happened. Normally you see stuff like this happen in the movies or on TV and it’s no big deal, but when I heard those gun shots fired, I was speechless,” said Claire Wheeler, a junior at Rutgers University, who lives adjacent the spot where the shooting took place. “I was sitting in my room when I heard the shots and ran to my window and saw this guy fall to his knees, this was the most terrifying experience I have had at Rutgers,” said Wheeler. Other Rutgers students were also upset by this traumatic event. “I thought this was the safer part of town. I quickly realized that I was mistaken,” said Rutgers Senior Eric O’Toole.

The four suspects were identified as James Phillips Jr., 58, of Newark; James Holmes, 54, of East Orange; Sammie Dobson, 52, of Jersey City and Anthony Peterson, 43, of Newark ( All suspects were rushed to the hospital to be treated for gunshot wounds, and were later moved to the hospital ward of the New Jersey State prison in Trenton. Phillips died from his injuries and was pronounced dead on April 4 in the hospital ward ( Authorities say Phillips was one of the men who opened fire on them at the shootout ( Phillips was faced with six counts of attempted murder, one count of eluding police, and a weapons charge ( The other three suspects faced similar counts and are waiting their trial dates.

Several weapons were recovered after the shootout along with the money that was robbed from the bank, said city police Director Caputo ( A crowd of onlookers gathered around the scene afterwards to take in what just happen. After this incident, many Rutgers students who live in the area question their safety. “So far in my career at Rutgers, I’ve gotten my car window smashed, my radio stolen, and watched bank robbers get shot right outside my house. I don’t know how much longer I can deal with this,” said Wheeler, who is currently trying to transfer out of Rutgers.

Shaun Van Moerkerken is a junior at Rutgers University. He is a Journalism and Media Studies major and has a minor in Psychology. His career goal in life is to work at an advertising firm or write for sports media.

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