Categories
Prosecutor

Plainfield Man found Guilty in 2015 Mcdonald’s Robbery

Thomas H. Outland

On Wednesday, a Union County jury returned a guilty verdict against a Plainfield man accused of robbing a fast-food restaurant in Scotch Plains in 2015, Union County Prosecutor William A. Daniel announced today. 

Thomas H. Outland, 49, was convicted on charges of second-degree conspiracy to commit robbery and fourth-degree possession of an imitation firearm following a six-day trial before state Superior Court Judge Robert A. Kirsch.  This is the second time that Outland stood trial for this robbery.  Five years ago, in June 2017, Outland was found guilty by a Union County jury on the same charges.  That conviction was eventually overturned by the New Jersey Supreme Court in March of 2021 on that grounds that Outland was improperly denied the right to represent himself at trial. Outland elected not to represent himself at the second trial.

At approximately 12:30 a.m. on September 4, 2015, Outland and an as-yet unidentified co-conspirator, both of whom were wearing masks and brandishing firearms, entered an unlocked door of the McDonald’s on Route 22 in Scotch Plains, according to Union County Assistant Prosecutors Aran McNerney and Marilyn Muller, who prosecuted the case.

The unidentified suspect then began demanding the cell phones of some of the employees who were cleaning the restaurant at the end of their shift while Outland, a former employee of the restaurant, began walking directly toward the manager’s office, where the restaurant safe was located, McNerney and Muller said. On his way, however, Outland was intercepted by one of the store employees, who loudly asserted that Outland’s weapon was fake and suggested that he could get killed.

At that time, Outland removed his mask, lowered his imitation firearm, and announced to the restaurant employees that his actions constituted a practical joke. He and the second suspect, who never removed his mask, then returned the employees’ cell phones and immediately left the area.

Following an investigation by the Scotch Plains Police Department, Outland was arrested in January 2016 and indicted a month later.

The above incident took place when Outland was free on bail in connection with an unrelated robbery that took place in April 2014. An investigation involving the Prosecutor’s Office and the Plainfield Police Department determined that in that incident, he and two other as-yet unidentified suspects made off with approximately $35,000 in cash from a Plainfield check cashing store. A jury convicted Outland on multiple charges associated with that crime in May of 2016.

On June 24, 2016, Outland was sentenced to an extended term of 16 years in state prison for the Plainfield robbery due to his other prior felony convictions, with 85 percent of that term required to be served before the possibility of parole under New Jersey’s No Early Release Act (NERA).

Sentencing in the Scotch Plains case has been scheduled for August 19, 2022. At sentencing, the State will seek a term to be served consecutively to the 16-year sentence imposed for the Plainfield robbery.

Categories
Prosecutor

20 Outstanding Citizens Honored by Union County Human Relations Commission at Unity Award Presentation

Front row from left:

  • Edward Davenport, Cranford’s TV-35;
  • Juanita Nelson (Mother of posthumous honoree Westfield High School Principal Dr. Derrick Nelson).

Second row:

  • Emmy Asinelli accepting award for Dr. Michael Skolnick DMD;
  • Morgan K. Nelson (Dr. Nelson’s daughter).

Third Row

  • Patricia Bixel, Director, StarFish Food Pantry of Plainfield;
  • Theresa Cowing, Board Secretary, Moms Helping Moms Foundation;
  • Sheronda Jackson (Dr. Derrick Nelson’s fiance);

Fourth Row:

  • Miguel Edgehill, Covenant United Methodist Church of Plainfield;
  • Allison Sanchez, Educational Services Commission of New Jersey’s Adult Community Services;
  • Jennifer Popper, Editor, TAPinto Plainfield.

Back Row:

  • Heroes4Heroes Superhero / Retired Union County Department of Corrections Officer Peter Femia;
  • Retired Springfield Police Lieutenant Michael McNany and Retired Springfield Police Sgt. Edward McNany, McNany Charitable Foundation Inc.

Not pictured:

  • WWII Navy Veteran Daniel Sullivan (presented posthumously);
  • Sally and Mike Cursi, Shining Stars Network;
  • Joyce Benz, Program Director, Union County Intensive Family Support Services, Mental Health Association in New Jersey;
  • Mallory Banks, Scotch Plains-Fanwood;
  • Rabbi Avi Friedman, Congregation Ohr Shalom/Summit Jewish Community Center;
  • Westfield Public Schools Supervisor of Guidance Maureen Mazzarese;
  • former Westfield Police Officer Tiffany Kenny;
  • SCP Youth Soccer Inc. founders Rodrigo DaSilva and Steven Valeira;
  • Dr. Derrrick Nelson’s father, Willie Nelson.

Fourteen individuals and six organizations were nominated and selected for their dedicated efforts to foster human rights, human relations, and human dignity among the people of Union County.

The Union County Human Relation’s Commission’s 2020 award recipients were presented with their long-awaited Unity Achievement Awards on Thursday, June 9th, at Kean University STEM Center in the Township of Union.  The 19th annual presentation was slated for May 2020 but had to be postponed due to the Covid pandemic.

Award categories included achievements by a corporate/business enterprise, community organization, nonprofit organization, individual, member of law enforcement, public servant, student, educator, clergy, faith-based organization, military/veteran, and member of the media. 

 “The commission is proud to recognize our local role models who dedicate themselves to helping others and strengthening our communities,” Commissioner Co-Chair Dr. Martin Dickerson said. “These regular people do extraordinary things to make others’ lives better, and the evening’s presentation highlights all of the good that is being accomplished in Union County.”

The mission of the Union County Human Relations Commission is to actively encourage, develop, promote, and strengthen respect for human rights and cultural diversity among the people of Union County.

 “The volunteers who dedicate their time and talents to serve on the Commission unequivocally agree that one of the best ways to strive to accomplish their mission is to publicly honor those who already do it well,” said Union County First Assistant Prosecutor James O. Tansey, who ultimately oversees the Commission.

The recipients of the 2020 Unity Achievement Awards are Dr. Michael Skolnik, DMD (Business Enterprise); Moms Helping Moms Foundation (Community Organization); McNany Charitable Foundation (Community Organization); Shining Stars Network (Nonprofit Organization);  Joyce H. Benz, Program Director, Union County Intensive Family Support Services, Mental Health Association in New Jersey (Individual); Union County Department of Corrections Officer Peter Femia (ret) and Heroes4Heroes (Law Enforcement); Allison Sanchez, Educational Services Commission of New Jersey’s Adult Community Services (Public Service); H. Edward Davenport, Director, Cranford TV-35 (Media); Mallory Banks, Scotch Plains-Fanwood High School (Student); Rabbi Avi Friedman, Congregation Ohr Shalom/Summit Jewish Community Center (Clergy); StarFish Food Pantry of Plainfield and Covenant United Methodist Church (Faith-Based Organization); Maureen Mazzarese, Supervisor of Guidance, Westfield Public Schools; Rodrigo DaSilva and Steven Valeira, SCP Youth Soccer Inc.; and former Police Officer Tiffany Kenny, Westfield Police Department (Special Achievement). 

Two awards were presented posthumously:  Daniel T. Sullivan, United States Army Veteran (Military/Veteran), and Dr. Derrick Nelson, Westfield High School Principal (Educator).

World War II Veteran Daniel T. Sullivan, a Township of Union resident who passed away on April 4, 2020, was recognized for his incredible above-and-beyond the call of duty service to our country, and for a well-lived life full of love, integrity, faith, and respect.  Known as “D-Day Dan by his family and friends, United States Navy veteran Daniel Sullivan saw action aboard the U.S.S. Texas, the flagship of the bombing force at Omaha Beach as part of the June 1944 D-Day invasion at Normandy.  He also participated in the battles of Iwo Jima and Okinawa in the Pacific Theater.

Dr. Derrick Nelson, principal of Westfield High School and a Plainfield resident, was recognized for his selfless sacrifice in compassionate service to others.  He lapsed into a coma during a procedure to donate his bone marrow to an unknown 14-year-old boy in France, and died on April 8, 2019.  His death came two months before Dr. Nelson and his fiancé, Sheronda Braker, the mother of their 5-year-old daughter Morgan, were scheduled to marry.  He impacted the lives of people of all races and backgrounds in life, and now is seen as a hero to people around the world.

TAPinto Plainfield editor Jennifer M. Popper was also present to receive her 2019 Unity Award for Achievement by the Media.

The Commissioners also recognized Mrs. Ruth E. Positan, who, although not a formal member, has donated her time and assistance in support of the commission since her daughter, Commissioner and Recording Secretary Karen E. Positan, was appointed to the Commission in 1997.

The Commission was created by the Union County Prosecutor’s Office in 1991. The volunteer commissioners attend five regular meetings each year, and participate in the many public offerings that are scheduled throughout the year.

The Commission is actively seeking individuals who represent Union County’s 21 towns and our incredible diversity to serve as Commissioners. If you are interested in becoming a member, please email uchrc@ucnj.org.

Nominations are now open for the 2023 Unity Achievement Awards. In addition to our search for everyone who extends themselves in service to others, the upcoming awards are also seeking to honor individuals and organizations that extended themselves extraordinarily during the Covid pandemic.

For more information about the Commission, or to make a nomination, please visit its website at www.ucnj.org/uchrc.


BERKELEY HEIGHTS

Unity Award for Achievement by a Corporate/Business Enterprise

Dr. Michael Skolnick, DMD

Recognition for adding a different kind of sweetness to the lives of our children, and our world

Dr. Michael Skolnick, DMD, owns two Union County dental clinics: Pearly Whites Family Dental Practice in Berkeley Heights, and Childsmiles Group in Elizabeth. He knows all of his 100 employees by name, and can tell you something personal about each. He is humble, caring, and generous with his time and money. Dr. Skolnick epitomizes what giving back to the community is all about, and takes a great interest in helping children develop both good dental hygiene and solid values. On a professional level, he encourages his staff to educate children on oral health on an ongoing basis, and for the month of February two staff members visit local schools to talk about the topic, and to distribute toothbrushes, toothpaste, and educational pamphlets to the students and their parents. His state-of-the-art entertainment area for children calms and relaxes them before any check-up or procedure. In support of both students and members of the military deployed abroad, the staff of Pearly Whites conducts a Halloween candy buy- back, helping young patients avoid cavities by shipping some of their candy to troops serving overseas through Operation Gratitude. Dr. Skolnick also donates pumpkins to the local PBA’s trunk or treat events each year. To encourage children to do good deeds for others, Dr. Skolnick sponsors the Pay It Forward program. When a young patient tells the dental staff about a good deed they have done, the child is rewarded with a prize. This reinforces the concept that good behavior pays off. Dr. Skolnick routinely comes up with creative ideas that simply make things better. If a local donation is needed, Dr. Skolnick inevitably will come through, supporting schools, sporting events, and town events. A Zumba fundraiser in the Berkeley Heights dental waiting room helped raise $750 to help relief efforts in Puerto Rico following the devastation from Hurricane Maria. Dr. Skolnick personally matched the money for a total donation of $1,500. He also realized the needs of students in a poor area of Costa Rica, identified a local school in need, and shipped school supplies to them, even traveling with his family to help distribute additional supplies.


CRANFORD

Unity Award for Achievement in Media

Edward Davenport Director, Cranford TV-35

Recognition for professionally, for providing a steady stream of information and, personally, for being an inspiration to us all

While Cranford’s TV-35 does not have HBO movies, ratings, or non-stop coverage, it does have one major asset: Ed Davenport, who has been a part of the station from its start, and currently serves as its director. TV-35 runs 24/7/365, and its viewership of over 350,000 households enjoy its homegrown programming offerings, which are geared to Cranford residents and cover local and Union County news and events. The core of its production is about 70 annual meetings (although that number is always increasing!), and includes coverage of high school sports, local events, bulletin board postings, storm information, and local documentaries. Ed is a community favorite, in terms of his personality, skill set, and the territory he covers as director of Cranford’s TV-35. Ed, who previously managed the multimedia communications department at the HoffmannLaRoche facility in Nutley, somehow manages to find time in his busy schedule to do it all. He is both behind the scenes and on the scene to produce the programming aired on TV-35. Well-known and highly regarded throughout the Cranford community, he will always take that extra moment to stop for a chat. Ed continually upgrades the station’s systems and equipment (when he is not distracted by trying to save it, such as following the ravages of Hurricane Irene and the Rahway River, which, on the station’s most devastating day, flooded the studios.) He is proud of his fully integrated state-of-the-art digital facility which minimizes the use of video tape and DVD discs — something very rare for a TV station. Ed also routinely helps youth and senior citizens volunteers develop new skills while supporting the many programs and projects that TV-35 is involved with, while also satisfying his clients’ various needs. You will never hear Ed say, “no,” “we can’t,” or “it’s impossible,” because, despite being just one person overseeing a small staff and volunteers, Ed will always go out of his way to make things happen, lend a hand, or connect you with someone who can offer advice or support.


CRANFORD

Unity Award for Achievement by a NonProfit Organization

Shining Stars Network Award

Recognition for shining a light on the special needs community, while bringing everyone together in a place they can call home

Shining Stars Network believes that everyone should have the chance to showcase their abilities and talents, and to connect with their community. The Shining Stars Network also believes that individuals with special needs have their own unique talents to share with the world. This 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization is dedicated to shining a light on the special needs community through media, events, and experiences. In 2012, Sally Cursi launched a Shining Stars Talent Show to showcase the various talents of special-needs students in Cranford. Now Board President of Shining Stars Network, Sally has overseen a broad expansion of the talent show. Special-needs and non-special-needs performers annually come together for a dazzling display of choreography and teamwork; a culmination of four months of rehearsals and dedication from students, parents and volunteer “buddies” from Cranford high school. The two-hour variety show sells out the Cranford High School auditorium and is a testament to the power of inclusion. The organization’s programs and website contain video, photo, podcast, and editorial content created to spotlight the inspiring stories of those within the special-needs community, with content also developed by people with special needs. Its inclusive events provide opportunities for people with and without special needs to come together, and to cultivate experiences that enhance their lives. Shining Stars Network is a place where everyone can feel at home.


ELIZABETH

Unity Award for Achievement in Law Enforcement

Officer Peter Femia, Union County Department of Corrections

and

Heroes4Heroes

Recognition for superhuman efforts on behalf of special-needs and terminally ill children

A superhero, by definition, is a heroic stock character, typically possessing superhuman powers, dedicated to fighting evil, protecting the public, and battling super-villains. It’s not every day that you see an adult on the street dressed up as a superhero, let alone numerous adults portraying superheroes, including Batman, Superman, Iron Man, Captain America, Catwoman, the Black Panther, and others, with no two dressed alike. That is, not unless you are in proximity to Union County’s Department of Corrections Officer Peter Femia, and his colleagues. They routinely dress as superheroes to raise funds and awareness for special-needs and terminally ill children, and take the time to meet, greet, and take pictures with anyone they meet along the way. For years, these corrections officers stationed at the Union County Jail in Elizabeth participated in various fundraisers for children in need, but they were frustrated by their inability to do more. So they decided that the best way to bring more exposure and attention to their chosen cause events would be to dress as superheroes. Simply led by their desire to help children in need, in 2010, they created a nonprofit organization known as Heroes4Heroes. They are well-known throughout the state of New Jersey for their philanthropic activities, and have firmly established themselves as one of the top charitable earners in the state. Appearing at fundraisers, schools, summer camps, medical facilities, and other local events including parades, along with Adoption Day festivities in the courthouse, and local 5K races, these real-life heroes have put smiles on the faces of countless children who are the most in need of the support, and the smile. Whether it’s lifting the spirits of a young child battling cancer, or bringing gifts to a St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital event, raising nearly $80,000 for the Special Olympics, or whatever call they happen to be answering, Heroes4Heroes strive to always be there for those in need.


ELIZABETH

Unity Award for Achievement by a Corporate/Business Enterprise

Dr. Michael Skolnick, DMD

Recognition for adding a different kind of sweetness to the lives of our children, and our world

Dr. Michael Skolnick, DMD, owns two Union County dental clinics: Pearly Whites Family Dental Practice in Berkeley Heights, and Childsmiles Group in Elizabeth. He knows all of his 100 employees by name, and can tell you something personal about each. He is humble, caring, and generous with his time and money. Dr. Skolnick epitomizes what giving back to the community is all about, and takes a great interest in helping children develop both good dental hygiene and solid values. On a professional level, he encourages his staff to educate children on oral health on an ongoing basis, and for the month of February two staff members visit local schools to talk about the topic, and to distribute toothbrushes, toothpaste, and educational pamphlets to the students and their parents. His state-of-the-art entertainment area for children calms and relaxes them before any check-up or procedure. In support of both students and members of the military deployed abroad, the staff of Pearly Whites conducts a Halloween candy buy- back, helping young patients avoid cavities by shipping some of their candy to troops serving overseas through Operation Gratitude. Dr. Skolnick also donates pumpkins to the local PBA’s trunk or treat events each year. To encourage children to do good deeds for others, Dr. Skolnick sponsors the Pay It Forward program. When a young patient tells the dental staff about a good deed they have done, the child is rewarded with a prize. This reinforces the concept that good behavior pays off. Dr. Skolnick routinely comes up with creative ideas that simply make things better. If a local donation is needed, Dr. Skolnick inevitably will come through, supporting schools, sporting events, and town events. A Zumba fundraiser in the Berkeley Heights dental waiting room helped raise $750 to help relief efforts in Puerto Rico following the devastation from Hurricane Maria. Dr. Skolnick personally matched the money for a total donation of $1,500. He also realized the needs of students in a poor area of Costa Rica, identified a local school in need, and shipped school supplies to them, even traveling with his family to help distribute additional supplies.


PLAINFIELD

Unity Award for Achievement by a Community Organization

Moms Helping Moms Foundation

Award accepted by Theresa Cowing, Board Secretary

Recognition for identifying a serious problem and finding a way to collectively alleviate it

There is a lot that goes into being a parent. Sometimes, while looking at the big picture, one aspect that does not become immediately clear until you are facing it is the need to provide babies with clean, dry diapers. Infants need up to 12 diapers every day, and toddlers require about eight. With diapers costing almost $1,000 per year, it is easy to see how 1 in 3 mothers in the United States suffer from diaper need. Diapers cannot be obtained with food stamps, and buying diapers at a convenience store rather than traveling to a “big box” store can significantly increase the monthly cost. This need can be as distressing to moms not having enough food to feed their family. Coping with this trauma can even negatively affect a child’s health and development, as well as the mother’s. Founded in 2011 by Executive Director Bridget Cutler, Plainfield’s Moms Helping Moms Foundation provides New Jersey’s low income families with the essential baby items they need. Annually, the foundation distributes more than 300,000 items. Diapers are the most needed items for the families it serves. To-date, they have served almost 20,000 individuals and distributed over 200,000 diapers. But they also provide other items, such as wipes, clothes, shoes, and strollers, thus enabling recipient children to have a safe, happy and healthy start to life. With a focus on the family, the solution also involves the community. The foundation has built a large and growing network of partner organizations, including schools, faith-based organizations and social service agencies, to ensure that local families have the basics they need. The foundation also benefits from volunteerism by students, individuals, and small groups.


PLAINFIELD

Unity Award for Achievement by a Faith-Based Organization

StarFish Food Pantry of Plainfield

and

Covenant United Methodist Church/Plainfield

Accepted by Patricia Bixel, Director, StarFish Food Pantry of Plainfield and Miguel Edgehill, longtime member of the Covenant United Methodist Church

Recognition for creating and growing an interfaith union of neighbors helping neighbors

In 1971, a group of neighbors from different walks of life and different faiths, representing many area houses of worship, met at Temple BethEl in Plainfield and created a volunteer network to help other neighbors in need. In the early days, Star Fish volunteers wore buttons displaying their logo, which depicted the Star of David and the Christian fish, working together to help others. Once people learned how easy it was to assist, and how meaningful the assistance was to those in need, the act of helping others became a reward that was eagerly anticipated. Originally focused on responding mainly to nutrition and transportation needs, and aided by the Association of Religious Organizations, an ecumenical clergy group, StarFish ultimately became an official 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, and has evolved solely into a food pantry. Two of the early founding members, Eileen Cunniff and Mary Nischwitz, established the food pantry operation that continues today. Food was collected for distribution at services every weekend. At that time, one collection site was located in Eileen’s basement for the west half of city, and, for the other half, in the Covenent United Methodist Church basement. Each week, parishioners brought food to donate, and it was such a part of the Cunniff family life that their children thought everyone’s basements had shelves of food for others! As needs and donations grew, the basement pantry was replaced with an ever-expanding collection site at the Covenant United Methodist Church. Over time, local service agencies have taken over the tasks of managing incoming calls for help, assuring that the limited resources are given to those truly in need, identifying specifically what is needed, and providing a place for clients to pick up their donations. These distribution organizations include the Red Cross, Union County Social Services, and Plainfield Action Services. The food pantry operates three days a week throughout the year, preparing and distributing weekly grocery food orders to an average of 30 to 35 families in need via the partner agency, and special food orders for 160 families at Easter, Thanksgiving, and Christmas.


SCOTCH PLAINS / FANWOOD

Unity Award for Achievement by a Student

Mallory Banks, Scotch Plains-Fanwood High School, Class of 2020

Recognition for shining a light on, and engaging the community, in spreading autism awareness

At the time the recipient was selected, Mallory Banks was an 18-year-old senior who attended Scotch Plains-Fanwood High School, where she was an honor student. In 2011, as a third-grader and at the age of 9, Mallory starting promoting awareness about autism. She had been inspired by her autistic older brother, Ethan, and all of those who are affected by autism. As a New Jersey Junior Autism Awareness Ambassador, Mallory raised more than $500 at a bake sale on a local soccer field. Over the following years, she continued her bake sale, but added on a local merchant tricky tray, whereby local businesses donated items such as restaurant, retail, and beauty gift certificates, as well as other special gifts. These events were so successful that she was named the Top Junior Ambassador fundraiser for Autism New Jersey during the years of 2014, 2016, 2017, 2018, and 2019. That first bake sale was clearly a sign of things to come: today, she and her committee have helped raise a total of more than $70,000 for her chosen cause. In April 2016, Mallory launched Rockin’ for Autism, an all-day festival at La Grande Park in Fanwood. This festival is now going into its fifth year, and includes musical acts playing all day, Child’s Play Challenge Courses, various sports clinics, food trucks, vendors, a merchant raffle, and the openingday ceremony for the Scotch Plains-Fanwood Baseball League. In 2018 and 2019, this event raised more money than any other autism event in New Jersey, surpassing all other youth and adult-run initiatives in the state. Since Rockin’ for Autism’s initial success, it has become an annual celebration for the Fanwood and Scotch Plains community each April, during Autism Awareness month. Mallory is making a huge difference for those affected by autism spectrum disorder, and has put the issue on the forefront in her local community. In addition to fundraising, Mallory is also a competitive dancer, a student council cabinet member and an aspiring photographer.

Mallory is now a sophomore at the University of Tampa, majoring in Psychology and minoring in dance.


SPRINGFIELD

Unity Award for Achievement by a Community Organization

McNany Charitable Foundation, Inc. Award

accepted by Edward J. McNany and Michael O. McNany

Recognition for creating positive change in memory of a loved one

The five McNany kids were very young when they moved to Springfield, New Jersey from Pennsylvania. Due to unfortunate circumstances, the family was on welfare for a few years. Yet throughout that time, they also received support in a variety of ways from the community. Because of that support, the McNany siblings found themselves with access to opportunity, and, as adults, they went on to lead successful lives. Ed, Mike, and Rita lost their mother Ann Marie “Mickey” McNany at an early age, and soon after their older brother Paul to muscular dystrophy. When they lost their other older brother Brian to cancer in 2015, they decided to create a family foundation, not only honoring the three of them, but also to acknowledge and thank the community for the benefits they had received over the years. The McNany Charitable Foundation seeks to find out who is really in need, and respond with any manner of aid available. For example, it greatly supported families left without a home due to a fire in a Summit apartment building over the week of Christmas 2017. It also provides scholarships, charitable donations, and assistance with other projects. For the past four years, they have given out scholarships to students at the high schools in Roselle Park, Springfield, and Summit, with the recipient criteria related to athletics or community service. To spread their support, the siblings work through different avenues, and regularly support as many organizations and individuals as possible. They work with other local businesses and community organizations including the chambers of commerce, Lions Club and Rotary Club chapters, and Springfield’s HOPE organization. They also support research into ALS and muscular dystrophy, the Valerie Fund, and local PBAs and EMTs. They also get involved with community initiatives and efforts, including around Thanksgiving and the holidays. They hold two fundraisers a year, in May and October, and hold a 50/50 raffle at each.


SPRINGFIELD

Unity Award for Achievement by an Individual

Joyce H. Benz, Program Director Union County Intensive Family Support Services Mental Health Association in New Jersey

Recognition for her steadfast tenacity to work miracles so that those grappling with mental health issues can envision a brighter tomorrow

During the early days of mental health treatment, asylums often restrained people who had mental illnesses, binding iron chains and shackles around their ankles and wrists. With better understanding and treatments, this cruel practice eventually stopped. In the early 1950’s, Mental Health America issued a call to asylums across the country for their discarded chains and shackles. On April 13, 1953, at the McShane Bell Foundry in Baltimore, these inhumane bindings were melted down and recast into a sign of hope: The Mental Health Bell. The Bell’s inscription reads: “Cast from shackles which bound them, this bell shall ring out hope for the mentally ill and victory over mental illness.” One person who has been able to ring that bell many times is Joyce Benz. She works for the Union County branch of the Mental Health Association of New Jersey, as Program Director of the Intensive Family Support Services (IFSS) unit. The vision of the Association is a statewide community in which people with mental illnesses can achieve full potential, free from stigma and other barriers to care and recovery. Joyce’s unit’s charge is to assist families with adult children who have mental illness, helping them learn to cope with their situation, by providing information and support. Understanding and coping with a family member’s mental illness can be a painful and challenging journey. And while there are many dedicated professionals involved in such work nationwide, Joyce Benz stands out, having been called “a miracle worker” as well as a “saint” as she worked to help families with mentally ill relatives. Other mental health support networks had given up on one man’s sister, who was facing eviction and homelessness and, due to her condition, was unwilling to accept help. Joyce singlehandedly kept her from becoming homeless. Her dedicated efforts directly resulted in the man’s sister being provided an opportunity to join a support program with housing assistance, instead of off to live in a mental hospital or on the street. We applaud Joyce’s unending compassion and patience as she deals with difficult situations and people, her work ethic, her relentless energy, and problem-solving abilities, as well as her tenacity to charge through when others give up, so that a bell can ring, heralding the dawn of a brighter day, and a more hopeful tomorrow.


SUMMIT

Unity Award for Achievement by the Clergy

Rabbi Avi Friedman

Congregation Ohr Shalom/ Summit Jewish Community Center

Recognition for paraphrasing the great sage Hillel, the Elder, always being himself, and for others

Rabbi Avi Friedman, a Detroit native, earned his undergraduate degree from the University of Michigan in 1991, and his Master of Hebrew Letters in 1993 from the University of Judaism in Los Angeles. In 1997, he was ordained by the Jewish Theological Seminary of America in New York City. For the past 15 years, he has served as the spiritual leader for Summit’s Congregation Ohr Shalom/Summit Jewish Community Center, and serves on the Summit Interfaith Clergy Council. His prior service included time spent as Assistant Rabbi at the Ahavath Achim Congregation in Atlanta, and as an instructor at various community high schools as well as at the Florence Melton School of Adult Jewish Learning in Pittsburgh. Rabbi Friedman came to Summit after spending six years as the Rabbi at the Tree of Life congregation in Pittsburgh, which the nation sadly came to know as the site of the horrific violent attack on a Sabbath morning, in October 2018 that killed eleven Jewish worshipers. The Rabbi personally knew several of these worshipers. At that time, and during other tragedies, Rabbi Friedman has rallied his neighbors in a call for action. When a shooting occurred at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, Ohr Shalom congregants lined the walkway of the Islamic Society of Basking Ridge as its members came together for their prayer services, to remind them that they do not stand alone against hatred, and that they have friends and allies. The father of a son with special needs, Rabbi Friedman is also a fierce advocate for people with disabilities who confront daily issues of bias and prejudice where they live, work, attend school, and socialize. Rabbi Friedman has taught that when we stand up to protect ourselves and our rights, we inevitably make this world a better place for others. When we stand up to protect other people and their rights, we inevitably make this world a better place for ourselves. He thoughtfully balances the desire to maintain a welcoming, open door policy with being mindful of the need to provide a safe, secure space to worship. We salute him for openly addressing issues of prejudice and bias in word and deed, and for encouraging and leading community outreach beyond the synagogue’s locked doors to build strong interfaith community relations with every culturally diverse neighbor, regardless of faith, education, or upbringing.


TOWNSHIP OF UNION

Unity Award for Achievement by a Veteran – presented posthumously

Daniel T. Sullivan, WWII Veteran, United States Navy

Recognition for incredible service to our country, above and beyond the call of duty

It is a very rare thing to find a living World War II veteran who saw action during the decisive D-Day invasion at Normandy, as well as the battles of Iwo Jima and Okinawa in the Pacific theater. But United States Navy veteran Daniel T. Sullivan is someone who witnessed all three of them firsthand. His family and friends call him DDay Dan. They all know him as a pillar of strength. Mr. Sullivan was born in Elizabeth. In January 1943, at the age of 18, he enlisted in the United States Navy, and served aboard the USS Texas. In 1943, the USS Texas served as a convoy escort. On April 22, 1944, it reached Scotland where it awaited the launch of Operation Overlord. During Operation Neptune, the Texas was designated as the flagship of the bombing force at Omaha Beach. At 3 a.m. on June 6, 1944, it reached its starting position about seven miles off Pointe du Hoc: one of the most dangerous German defensive positions on the Norman coast, and a focal point of the amphibious assault by U.S. forces. In a recent News 12 New Jersey interview with Tony Caputo marking the 75th anniversary of D-Day, Dan shared his incredible story of survival. “75 years,” he said. “That’s hard to believe. I look at that picture of me, I was 18 years old. And I say ‘holy Christ, 75 years.’” Mr. Sullivan recalled exactly where on Omaha Beach he and his shipmates were three-quarters of a century ago. “We’re at Omaha Beach, and we’re shelling the guys trying to climb the cliffs and helping them out trying to knock that down,” he said. They finally did and we stayed there. I don’t know how many days. They finally got up and did take it.” After a week’s worth of action, the USS Texas was sent to southern France where Dan experienced a close call: the side of the ship took a 1,000 pound German shell. It rolled around in the officer’s state room and never exploded. In August 1944, the USS Texas participated in Operation Dragoon in the landing at Provence and then returned to the United States in September. In 1945, the USS Texas was deployed in the Pacific participating in naval fire support on Iwo Jima and Okinawa, avoiding kamikaze pilots. In his post-war years, Mr. Sullivan lived a full life of love, integrity, faith and respect, surrounded by his loving family. In May 2019, after 64 years of marriage, Mr. Sullivan lost his beloved wife Joan. Sadly, Mr. Sullivan passed away on April 4, 2020. But we honor him and his memory tonight.


TOWNSHIP OF UNION

Unity Award for Special Achievement

Rodrigo DaSilva and Steven Valeira — SCP Youth Soccer, Inc.

Recognition for expanding the reach of dedicated coaching in sports and life to enrich the experiences of the youth whose lives they touch

Many private youth soccer programs currently available in the county are for-profit organizations working solely in highly affluent areas where parents can pay expensive player dues and ancillary fees to have their children participate. Township of Union residents Rodrigo DaSilva and Steven Valeira found an alternative path to bring the game of soccer to youngsters who otherwise might not be able to participate. Their quality youth soccer program — SCP Youth Soccer, Inc. — is funded primarily by way of sponsorships, charitable donations, and grants, which minimize the cost to parents. For Rodrigo and Steven, the priority is the player experience and not the profit. Their absolute and singleminded concern is the happiness and positive mindset of their players. This dedication has also resulted in situations in which the gentlemen have taken money from their own pockets to pay for equipment and tournament fees when a parent is unable to, simply so the child does not miss out on the opportunity. In return for their efforts, Rodrigo and Steven expect nothing but 110 percent commitment from players, parents, coaches, and volunteers. Their program follows three basic principles: speed, conditioning, and performance. Players who participate in the program are taught that winning, whether on or off the field, comes from commitment, hard work, and smart execution. SCP Youth Soccer players learn respect, confidence, good sportsmanship, fair play, and teamwork. All of these traits benefit these young athletes, their families, and community now, and will aid them immensely as they grow from childhood to adulthood.


WESTFIELD

Unity Award for Special Achievement

Maureen Mazzarese, Supervisor of Guidance, Westfield Public Schools

Recognition for her dedication, determination, creativity, and heartfelt interventions on behalf of all she serves

Maureen Mazzarese, Director of Counseling for Westfield Public Schools, has committed her entire 30-year career to student balance and wellness, and has assisted thousands of students, parents, families, and school staff though a lifetime of education and public service. Maureen guides the 20 counselors under her wing to provide support to close to 6,300 children annually, from kindergarten through 12th grade in Westfield Public Schools. Dedicated and determined, she has routinely gone “above and beyond” to offer assistance, encouragement, and empowerment. She is a published author, and an instructor at state universities and for professional organizations. The programs she creates and/or manages are numerous and varied. The Transition Project, for example, trains upperclassmen to serve as mentors to help incoming ninth-graders gain confidence and experience a sense of belonging. She also plans special forums for special education students and their parents as they plan for college. There is also the Black Achievers Program, for students who aspire to become community leaders and role models, along with Mix It Up Day, through which students are encouraged to connect with someone new over lunch. Additionally, Maureen helps plan forums and workshops focused on substance abuse, bullying awareness, managing stress, suicide prevention, responding to sudden loss, and raising a resilient child, just to name a few topics. Although some may like to think back to childhood as an easy, carefree time, many children bring more than their backpacks and lunch bags to school every day. Most importantly, Maureen is a beloved and trusted confidant for students who come to her with their fears or concerns. She has created lifelong bonds with those she has helped, and students often return to see her, even well into adulthood. She dedicates herself to make students feel comfortable with themselves and with others. She has improved the quality of life for students by guiding them and their families through critical periods of their lives, leading them to healthy social and personal development, and assisting them in reaching academic and career goals. She has personally counseled thousands of students in serious circumstances, and has met with them and their families in homes, hospital rooms, and offices. She continues to realize her vision: serving individual balance and wellness, so that each of her students and their families can achieve their fullest potential, and live their healthiest and best possible lives.


WESTFIELD

Unity Award for Achievement by an Educator – presented posthumously Dr. Derrick Nelson Principal, Westfield High School

Award accepted by Sheronda Braker Recognition for his selfless sacrifice in compassionate service to others

Dr. Derrick Nelson, a Plainfield resident who spent more than three years as principal of Westfield High School, was an educator and community member who touched so many lives during his lifetime, and even more since his passing. In February 2019, in an interview for the high school newspaper, he said that through Be the Match, a worldwide bone marrow registry network, he had been paired with a 14-year-old boy in France who needed a bone marrow donation. He said at that time that “a little bit of pain for a little bit of time is all worth it if that can give someone years of joy.” To aid this complete stranger, Dr. Nelson underwent the typically low-risk donation procedure at Hackensack University Medical Center later that month. During the procedure, he lapsed into a coma, and he died on April 8, 2019. His death came just two months before Dr. Nelson and his fiancée, Sheronda Braker, the mother of their 5-year-old daughter Morgan, were scheduled to marry. Dr. Nelson was a man of immense warmth, character and kindness. Dr. Nelson started his career in the corporate sector, but quit that job to serve others — for 20 years in the United States Army Reserve, including deployment to Kuwait in 2013, and as a public school educator. He will always be remembered as a hero on the battlefield, in the classroom and school system, and to a grateful community, his peers and co-workers, and his family. He impacted the lives of people of all races and backgrounds in life, and now is seen as a hero to people around the world. He was known as a hard-working man of intelligence and integrity who would always consider all perspectives, kind, compassionate, and possessed an endlessly positive attitude, encouraging others to laugh every day, try something new, and pursue their dreams. His cousin, Ameerah Shabazz, said that giving is what Dr. Nelson was all about. “He made a difference. At a time when the world — not just Westfield, not just Plainfield, not just New Jersey but the world — is facing so much hate and lack of humanity, we had this gentle giant, giving among us.

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Prosecutor

Hudson County Man Found Guilty in Shooting Death of Elizabeth Man

Anthony Reciofigueroa

A Union County jury has returned a guilty verdict against a man who shot and killed a 19-year old Elizabeth man in July of 2019, Union County Prosecutor William A. Daniel, Elizabeth Police Director Earl Graves and Elizabeth Police Chief Giacomo Sacca jointly announced today.  

Anthony Reciofigueroa, 27, of Jersey City was found guilty Thursday on one count each of first-degree murder, second-degree unlawful possession of a weapon and second-degree possession of a weapon for unlawful purposes following a three week trial before Union County Superior Court Judge John Deitch.  The jury deliberated for less than three hours before returning its verdict. 

Shortly after 7 p.m. on July 6, 2019, Elizabeth Police Department patrol units responded to a report of gunshots being fired on the 500 block of East Jersey Street and found 19-year-old Carlos Rodriguez of Elizabeth on the sidewalk, having sustained a gunshot wound, according to Union County Assistant Prosecutors Jillian Reyes and Sarah Turk who prosecuted the case. Rodriguez was transported to University Hospital in Newark, where he was pronounced dead the next day, Reyes and Turk said.

An investigation involving the Union County Homicide Task Force, Elizabeth Police Department, Union County Sheriff’s Office Crime Scene Unit, and Union County Police Department Ballistics Unit, assisted by the Vermont State Police and Jersey City Police Department, and the Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority Police Department resulted in Reciofigueroa being identified as a suspect in the case, and he was eventually extradited from Vermont while incarcerated there on an unrelated matter.

At trial, it was revealed that Reciofigueroa came to Elizabeth approximately thirty-minutes before the shooting, in a black Chevy Malibu with Vermont license plates.  Witnesses, physical evidence and video surveillance in the area –which captured the shooting – presented over the course of the trial were able to definitively pinpoint Reciofigueroa as the killer, Reyes and Turk indicated.

Sentencing has been scheduled for Friday, August 5, 2022 before Judge Deitch, at which time Reciofigueroa can face a sentence of up to life in state prison.

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Prosecutor

Essex County Man Sentenced in Killing of his Child’s Mother

Tyler Rios

An East Orange man, who previously admitted to killing his estranged girlfriend was sentenced to 30 years in State Prison on Friday, Union County Prosecutor William A. Daniel announced today.

Union County Superior Court Judge John Deitch imposed the term on 28-year-old Tyler Rios, handing down a 25-year sentence on his aggravated manslaughter conviction and a 5-year consecutive sentence for desecrating human remains.  Rios must serve at least 85% of the 25-year term on the aggravated manslaughter before the possibility of parole on that count, then must serve the additional 5-year term before being eligible for release Judge Deitch ruled.

The July, 2021 incident that resulted in a widely broadcasted Amber Alert launched a multi-state investigation which led to the recovery of the child and the discovery of Uyar’s body in Tennessee.

An investigation led by the Union County Prosecutor’s Office – and assisted by members of the FBI’s Newark Field Office and satellite offices, the New Jersey State Police, and the Rahway Police Department – led to Rios being identified as the suspect in the case after their son Sebastian Rios did not show up for daycare on July 9th and Uyar did not arrive for scheduled work shifts, according to Union County Assistant Prosecutor Robert Grady, who prosecuted the case. A welfare check was conducted on Uyar’s home by members of the Rahway Police Department, but no one was found inside, Grady said.

Shortly thereafter, the State Police issued an Amber Alert that was sent to privately owned cell phones, broadcast on electronic billboards along highways in New Jersey and beyond, and widely shared via social media.

Through the persistent efforts of the Union County Prosecutor’s Office and the above agencies — as well as a result of the extraordinary assistance from the Putnam County Tennessee Sheriff’s Office and the FBI’s Memphis Field Office and satellite offices – Sebastian Rios was found unharmed in Monterey, Tennessee on July 10th, when Tyler Rios was taken into custody. Later in the day, investigators located Uyar’s body in a wooded area nearby, off of Interstate I-40.

An autopsy performed on Uyar revealed that her death resulted from strangulation and blunt force trauma.  The investigation subsequently revealed that, on July 8th, Rios killed Uyar in her Rahway home before placing her in the trunk of her car, then taking their son and fleeing to Tennessee.

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Prosecutor

Hudson County Man Sentenced in Fatal Hit-and-Run of Child

Jose Marrero

A Kearny man who was convicted by a jury in March for fatally striking a 12-year old child in Union and fleeing the scene in July of 2019, was sentenced to seven and-a-half years in State Prison on Friday, Union County Prosecutor William A. Daniel announced today.  

Jose Marrero, 39, of Kearny was sentenced Friday for knowingly leaving the scene of an accident resulting in death, by Union County Superior Court Judge Robert Kirsch. 

It was just before 8 p.m. on July 17, 2019, when Union Police Department patrol units responded to a report of a pedestrian being struck by a vehicle in the area of Forest Drive and Galloping Hill Road, according to Assistant Prosecutors Scott Peterson and James Brady who prosecuted the case. There, they found an unresponsive 12-year old child, Jeremy Maraj of Union, who was rushed to University Hospital in Newark.  He succumbed to his injuries two days later. 

At trial, the State revealed that at the time of the accident Marrero was driving his work vehicle, a 2016 Nissan NV200 Cargo Van, when he struck Maraj on the shoulder of Galloping Hill Road.  Witnesses to the accident testified that Marrero didn’t stop and fled the scene.  Video surveillance obtained from the area and parts from the van recovered at the scene ultimately led Detectives to Marrero, Peterson and Brady said.    

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Prosecutor

Plainfield man indicted in Plainfield and Westfield sexual assaults

Terence Rhue

A Union County grand jury returned a seventeen-count indictment against a man charged in two violent sexual assaults which occurred in both Plainfield and Westfield in October of last year, Union County Prosecutor William A. Daniel announced Thursday.

Terence Rhue, 23, is charged with three counts of first-degree aggravated sexual assault, two counts of second-degree sexual assault, three counts of third-degree aggravated criminal sexual contact, two counts of third-degree possession of a weapon for unlawful purposes and two counts of fourth-degree unlawful possession of a weapon as a result of the attacks on a two separate woman.  In addition, Rhue is also charged with one count each of first-degree robbery, second-degree burglary, third-degree terroristic threats, and fourth-degree criminal mischief in connection with the Westfield sexual assault.

On October 4, 2021, at approximately 8:40 p.m., officers from the Plainfield Police Department were alerted that a sexual assault had occurred in the area of Randolph Road in Plainfield. When the officers arrived on scene, they spoke to the female victim who described being forcibly grabbed, punched and then sexually assaulted at knifepoint in the parking lot of an apartment complex after she exited her car, according to Union County Assistant Prosecutor Caroline Lawlor, who is prosecuting the case.  The suspect then fled the scene.

Then, on October 19th, Westfield Police Department patrol units responded to the area Forest and Longfellow Avenues at approximately 12:50 p.m. in response to a report of a sexual assault by an armed intruder, Lawlor stated.  There, they made contact with the female victim who indicated that she had returned home after being out and upon entering her house, she was confronted by a male with a knife who proceeded to sexually assault her.  The assailant then took a number of valuables from the home before fleeing the scene.

An exhaustive investigation led by the Union County Special Victims Unit, the Plainfield Police Department and the Westfield Police Department and assisted by the Union County Sheriff’s Office Crime Scene Unit, the New Jersey State Police Regional Operations Intelligence Center (R.O.I.C.), as well as the Scotch Plains and Fanwood Police Departments, resulted in the identification of Rhue as the suspect and led to his eventual capture and arrest two days after the Westfield attack.

“We are grateful for the collaboration with the local and State law enforcement agencies who assisted our Office in quickly locating and apprehending the suspect,” Prosecutor Daniel said.  “Shocking crimes of this nature that strike at the very heart of the safety and security of our Citizens in and around their homes are intolerable and the Union County Prosecutor’s Office will spare no resource or amount of effort in helping these victims achieve justice.”

Rhue is currently being held in the Essex County Jail pending a Post-Indictment Arraignment.

Convictions on first-degree charges can be punishable by a term of between 10 and 20 years in State Prison.  Second-degree charges are commonly punishable by 5 to 10 years.  Third-degree convictions range from 3 to 5 years, and fourth-degree charges can carry up to a term of 18 months.

These criminal charges are mere accusations. Every defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty in a court of law.

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Prosecutor

Union County Law Enforcement Makes Joint Statement on Buffalo and Uvalde, Texas Shootings

Union County Prosecutor William A. Daniel, Union County Sheriff Peter Corvelli, Union County Police Chiefs Association President/Cranford Township Police Chief Ryan J. Greco and Interim Executive County Superintendent Daryl Palmieri issue this joint statement on the recent fatal shootings at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, and a Buffalo, New York, supermarket on May 24, 2022 and May 14, 2022, respectively.

The massacre of innocent children, our elderly, or any American, cannot be tolerated in our society, and yet these horrific acts of senseless violence continue.  Even at a time when gun violence is on the rise, it shocks the conscience that it is our children and senior citizens who were targeted and brutalized.  The actions of cowards – one in Buffalo and now one in Texas – who chose to arm themselves with assault weapons and body armor, and attack defenseless school children and elderly innocents are unimaginably evil in every respect.  We unequivocally condemn these horrific acts, and our hearts go out to the grieving communities of Buffalo, Uvalde, and throughout America. 

We assure our Union County communities, and especially our citizen parents, that we have significant intelligence and response systems in place among our school officials and our Local, State, County and Federal law enforcement agencies.  We immediately investigate any information regarding potential shooting or threats of violence, especially relating to our schools.  Protection of our citizens, especially our children, is the highest priority of all our law enforcement partners.

God bless those deceased Texas children and Buffalo victims, as well as those who tried to protect them.  We urge our Federal legislators to take appropriate action to help us all fight against these senseless rampages.

It is critical that the public report any and all suspicious activity to law enforcement.  Members of the community are asked to be alert and provide information to law enforcement so that they can investigate and mitigate potential threats.  If you see something, say something.  In order to report suspicious activity, the public should contact their local police department and in an emergency call 911.  Non emergent public tips can also be provided anonymously by calling (908)654-8477 or (908) 654-TIPS. Parents and community members can contact Mr. Palmieri if they have any concerns at 908-654-9860.  Public tips can be reported to the Union County Prosecutor’s Office at ucsars@ucnj.org

Media inquiries concerning this press release should be directed to the Union County Prosecutor’s Public Information Officer at msheets@ucnj.org or 908-558-2054.

Categories
Prosecutor

Linden woman charged in a years-long Medicaid fraud scheme

Leslie K. Lassen

An extensive investigation has led to the arrest of a Linden woman, Union County Prosecutor William A. Daniel announced Wednesday.  The criminal complaint comes as the result of a nearly two-year investigation led by Detective Alex Lopez of the Union County Prosecutor’s Office’s Special Prosecutions Unit.  Leslie K. Lassen, 39, was charged on May 23rd with one count of second-degree theft and two counts of third-degree tampering with records in connection with the scheme.

In June of 2020, the Prosecutor’s Office received a referral from the New Jersey Medicaid Fraud Division pertaining to the theft of Medicaid funds by Lassen, said Assistant Prosecutor Melissa Spagnoli, who is handling the case.  The exhaustive investigation that followed revealed that between January 2015 and December 2019, Lassen filed numerous falsified documents with Medicaid in which she under-reported her household income.  Based upon those fraudulent submissions, Lassen stole nearly $350,000 in public funds that she wasn’t entitled to.

 “I am grateful to the members of the Prosecutor’s Office’s Special Prosecutions Unit for their diligence and dedication throughout this investigation,” said Prosecutor Daniel. “Our commitment to stem a rising wave of fraud and financial crime — particularly that which targets public funds needed by our most vulnerable citizens — remains unwavering. 

Convictions on second-degree criminal charges are commonly punishable by 5 to 10 years and those on third-degree crimes can result in 3 to 5 years.

These criminal charges are mere accusations. Each defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty in a court of law.

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Prosecutor

Elizabeth homicide under investigation

A homicide that took place in Elizabeth Sunday is under investigation, Union County Prosecutor William A. Daniel, Elizabeth Police Director Earl Graves and Elizabeth Police Chief Giacomo Sacca jointly announced Tuesday.

The deceased victim has been identified as 24 year-old Lamar Turner of West Orange.

Elizabeth Police Department patrol units responded to the 200 block of North Broad Street at approximately 3:00 a.m. Sunday in response to a report of gunshots in the area and found Turner at that location, having sustained a fatal gunshot injury, according to the preliminary investigation. A second gunshot victim, a 21 year-old female who sustained non-life threatening injuries, was located a short distance away on Julian Place and subsequently transported to University Hospital to be treated for her wounds.

The investigation into the shooting is being led by the Union County Homicide Task Force and the Elizabeth Police Department and assisted by members of the Union County Police Department Ballistics Unit and the Union County Sheriff’s Office Crime Scene Unit.

Anyone with information about this matter is urged to contact Prosecutor’s Office Detective Sergeant Filipe Afonso at (908) 603-7116, Prosecutor’s Office Detective Kenneth Luongo at (908) 347-1935, or Elizabeth Police Department Detective James Szpond at (908) 558-2041.

Tips can also be submitted anonymously by phone at 908-654-TIPS (8477) or online at www.uctip.org; submission of tips made in this fashion that result in an indictment and conviction can be eligible for a reward of up to $10,000 via the Union County Crime Stoppers.

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Prosecutor

Union County Collects Over 100 Weapons In Gun Turn In Event

Union County’s 2022 Gun Turn-In event was a success, with residents turning in nearly 100 unwanted guns.  The event was held on Saturday, April 23rd in Springfield.  Amongst the firearms surrendered were an assault rifle, 50 additional rifles and 43 shotguns.  In excess of 550 pounds of ammunition and 40 pounds of prescription pills were also handed in.

No questions were asked, and guns and ammunition in any condition were accepted.

“As elected officials, we should do everything to protect our residents, children and families, so holding an event where people can safely turn-in unused, unwanted or old guns, is one way to do so,” said Union County Commissioner Sergio Granados. “We remain committed to making Union County a safe place to live, so I appreciate our continued partnership with the Union County Prosecutor’s Office, Union County Police Department and local police departments for supporting events such as these.”

“Dedicated collaboration between State, County, and local organizations made Saturday’s event a success,” said Union County Prosecutor William Daniel. “The enthusiastic participation of community members highlights the importance of fostering relationships between law enforcement agencies and the citizens we serve, as we work towards our common goal of safer communities. These events are but one powerful tool the community can use to combat gun violence in our communities. We look forward to hosting more events in the future.”

“This turn-in event would not have been successful without the continued collaboration from both local police departments and County residents,” said Commissioner Chris Hudak. “I would like to thank the Springfield Police Department for teaming up with Union County on this initiative, as we work together to ensure the safety and quality of life for all.”

“The teamwork between the several law enforcement agencies involved and Pastor John of the Calvary Assembly of God Church – who allowed us to make use of his ideally located facility — enabled this event to be very successful with the collection of numerous weapons, ammunition and the large quantity of unwanted prescription drugs surrendered by the community,” added Springfield Police Chief John Cook.

This public safety event was supported by the Union County Board of County Commissioners and sponsored by the Union County Prosecutor and the Union County Sheriff with the Union County Division of Police and the Springfield Police Department.

For questions about this event, call the Union County Department of Public Safety at 908-654-9816.

Union County Police Department Captain John DaSilva, UCPO Deputy Chief of Detectives Jose Vendas, UCPO Chief of Detectives Harvey Barnwell, Springfield Township Mayor Alex Keiser, Union County Prosecutor William A. Daniel, Union County Commissioner Chris Hudak, Union County Commissioner Lourdes Leon, Union County First Assistant Prosecutor James Tansey, Union County Police Captain Martin Mogensen.
UCPO Deputy Chief of Detectives Jose Vendas, Union County Police Department Captain John DaSilva, Union County Commissioner Sergio Granados, Union County Prosecutor William A. Daniel, Springfield Township Mayor Alex Keiser, Union County Commissioner Chris Hudak, Union County Commissioner Lourdes Leon, Union County First Assistant Prosecutor James Tansey, Union County Police Captain Martin Mogensen.
Union County Police Department Captain John DaSilva, Union County Police Captain Martin Mogensen, Union County Commissioner Sergio Granados, Union County Prosecutor William A. Daniel, Union County Commissioner Lourdes Leon , Union County First Assistant Prosecutor James Tansey.
Union County Police Department Captain John DaSilva, Union County Police Captain Martin Mogensen, Union County Commissioner Sergio Granados,  Union County Prosecutor William A. Daniel, Union County Commissioner Lourdes Leon , Union County First Assistant Prosecutor James Tansey.