TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — An all-night art festival in New Jersey's capital city where violence broke out over the weekend should continue to be held, top city and state officials said Monday as advocates lamented the shooting but praised the event as a long-time source of pride.
Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy said Monday the impoverished city of about 85,000 needs something "like that now more than ever."
"Let's hope that it doesn't die, that we breathe new life into (it) and please, God, that everyone who goes to it is safe," Murphy said.
The shooting comes as the city — once the home of a vibrant manufacturing industry — transitions to a new mayor who takes office on July 1. The early morning gunfire also comes as Trenton has struggled with rising gun violence over recent years, and with New Jersey enacting some of the toughest firearms measures under Murphy's watch.
Incoming Democratic Mayor Reed Gusciora said "absolutely" the festival should continue but added that additional security measures should be considered.
Darren "Freedom" Green, a one-time mayoral candidate, community organizer and lifelong Trentonian, emphatically called for the all-night art event to return next year. The event goes back to 2006 and has served as a showcase for local artists, as well as a chance for local musicians and food truck operators to connect with the residents.
"We've had 12 years of an amazing, epic event," Green said. "If you begin to allow evil to change how you act you've lost the battle," he said.
The event began to unfold before 3 a.m. on Sunday with reports that gunfire had erupted at the site, sending people running from the historic Roebling Wire Works Building, a former factory that once supplied cables for bridges, including the Golden Gate.
One suspect was killed and 22 people, including two other suspects, were injured at the event on Sunday morning that saw about 1,000 people attending.
Of the 17 people treated for gunshot wounds, including a 13-year-old boy, only one person, a suspect, is in critical condition on Monday, said a spokesperson for Mercer County Prosecutor Angelo Onofri.
Tahaij Wells, 33, the suspect who was killed, was recently released from prison and was on parole since February on homicide-related charges, Onofri said on Sunday.
How the event broke out and what led to the shooting is unclear.
Another suspect, 23-year-old Amir Armstrong, remained hospitalized in stable condition and was charged with a weapons offense. It was not immediately known if he had an attorney who could comment. A third suspect remained in critical condition.
The violence appeared to stem from a "neighborhood beef," Onofri said, and Murphy added on Monday that he would work with community and city leaders to help stem any potential gang violence.
The event had a different vibe this year than previous years, according to Green.
"It was more of a bad vice in the air. You can actually feel the animosity."
Casey DeBlasio, the prosecutor's spokesperson, said the office is also looking into reports that there were social media posts warning about potential violence before the event.
Murphy, who signed a half-dozen gun control measures this month, said more needs to be done to try to shut down the so-called "iron pipeline," a reference to the nearly 80 percent of guns recovered from crimes coming from out of state.
According to the Census, nearly 30 percent of the city's residents are in poverty, compared with about 10 percent in New Jersey. The state police reported a nearly 11 percent increase in violent crime from 2015 to 2016, according to the most recent uniform crime report.