Teen, brother killed in Trenton shooting as city inches closer to homicide record

Trenton Mayor Reed Gusciora and Police Director Sheilah Coley speak to reporters in the wake of Tuesday's double homicide

Trenton Police Director Sheilah Coley (right) with Mayor Reed Gusciora speaking to reporters after a double homicide last October. (P. Kenneth Burns/WHYY)

New Jersey’s capital city has seen 34 homicides in 2020, surpassing the homicide total of the last two years combined and approaching the record number of 37 homicides set in 2013.

The latest victims were fatally shot Tuesday night inside their home on the 200 block of Mulberry Street.

The Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office identified the victims as 8-year-old Johnny Perez and 16-year-old Gustavo Perez. Each was struck once: Johnny in the neck, Gustavo in the chest.

At least six shots were fired into a second-story window from a suspect believed to be on foot, according to Trenton Police Director Sheilah Coley. She declined to elaborate further citing the current investigation.

A home on the 200 block of Mulbery Street
The Perez brothers were fatally shot inside a home on the 200 block of Mulbery Street on Tuesday night. (P. Kenneth Burns/WHYY)

Officials acknowledged there was a family gathering beforehand, but said it was not known whether the gathering and the shooting were related.

Frustrated by the bloodshed, Trenton Mayor Reed Gusciora said that the “senseless violence” needs to stop.

“We have to do better cooperating with the police,” he said, adding that there has to be a better way for Trenton residents to resolve conflicts.

“The children do not deserve to be at the other end of a barrel [of a gun] and we have to do better as a community to make sure that this does not happen again.”

‘I’m demanding more’

Police Director Coley also expressed frustration. While she said that she’s proud of the work her department does, she’s challenging the police to do more.

“I am demanding my officers to stop riding past crime,” she said.

Coley cited a directive from the court system as COVID-19 cases surged in the early spring that asked officers to not make arrests unless necessary. Coley said that directive no longer applies in Trenton and that officers are expected to “take an action” if they see a crime “big or small.”

Trenton Mayor Reed Gusciora and Police Director Sheilah Coley visit the scene of double homicide following a news conference
Trenton Mayor Reed Gusciora and Police Director Sheilah Coley visit the scene of double homicide following a news conference. (P. Kenneth Burns/WHYY)

“If I see or if anything is reported to me that an officer rode by an incident or any type of violation — and there’s physical proof of that — then discipline will be attached,” Coley said.

Coley has been under fire for the increase in crime, but Gusciora told WHYY previously that he stands by his pick to run his city’s police department.

She said that enforcement has been lacking, in part, due to the pandemic and that they’ve been “playing catch up.”

“Last year this same time, we had made over 5,000 arrests. This year, we’ve made only 3,100 arrests,” Coley said, suggesting that crime was allowed to flourish in the city because of the directive from the court system. “Once we were able to make arrests again, unfortunately, the crime had already started to rise.”

Get daily updates from WHYY News!

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal