By JOHN T. WARD
Addressing Mayor Pasquale Menna and the six-member council at a bimonthly meeting, West Westside Avenue resident Jill Burden criticized what she called a “lack of communication or even acknowledgement” of the concerns of neighbors following the shootings, which occurred less than two days apart.
In one, a man and a woman were shot and critically injured as they sat in a pickup truck on West Sunset Avenue at about 8:30 p.m. on November 6. Two days later, a parked car was riddled with bullets on River Street in broad daylight. Police said at the time that it was unclear if anyone was in the car, let alone shot, in the incident.
“By no means am I asking for any details” of the police investigation into the shootings, Burden told the council. “But I do not understand why, after both shootings, police didn’t go door-to-door” to reassure residents of their safety; impose an earlier curfew “or even a lockdown;” or hold a community meeting in the pocket park on Shrewsbury Avenue, she said. Not to have done anything, Burden said, makes it seem as though violence on the West Side is regarded as routine.
After Rose Sestito of River Street praised the police for stepping up patrols, which she said was a better use of manpower, Brian Donohue of Bank Street told the council members that, even within the context of limited factual information that can be shared in a crime investigation, “you guys as elected officials have to push back and give the community something. Was this a targeted attack?
“We need to know if we’re safe, and that has to come from you guys,” Donohue said.
Menna said the shootings of Leon Veney, 29, of Red Bank, and Angelique Morris, 23, of Tinton Falls, had been described by the Monmouth County Prosecutor as a “targeted” attack. “It was not a random crime,” he said.
No arrests have been made in either case. Police Chief Darren McConnell told redbankgreen prior to the meeting that Morris was released from Jersey Shore Medical Center in Neptune on Monday, but that Veney is expected to remain hospitalized there indefinitely.
McConnell had previously said authorities were looking into a possible connection between this month’s shootings and one that occurred in April involving Veney’s 28-year-old brother, Perry. He was shot multiple times as he sat behind the wheel of a car on Willow Street.
Anthony Sims, 25, who pleaded guilty in 2010 to shooting two men at the at the Montgomery Terrace public housing apartments on the borough’s West Side three years earlier, is under indictment and in custody for the Perry Veney shooting.
Stephen Hecht, of Branch Avenue, a licensed clinical social worker, advised the council to follow the model that schools now use in the aftermath of tragic incidents: gather people together to answer questions and offer assurances. It’s not just about answering questions, he said: “What’s really needed is an opportunity for people to talk.”
Kirsten Ramirez, of Carmen Place, complained about a “lack of regard for authority” in her neighborhood where, she said, people were smoking marijuana outdoors as she took her children trick-or-treating on Halloween. She also said police had never gotten back to her when she called to report suspected drug dealing.
“I guess I’m just a little stumped about how I go about involving my town, not just my neighbors,” she said.
Menna advised her to call him, other council members or McConnell. Councilwoman Cindy Burnham suggested a revival of a dormant neighborhood watch program.
Menna and Councilwoman Juanita Lewis both said the criticisms were valid and “well-noted.”