Guilty Plea Entered in Shooting of Plainfield 5-Year-Old

A Somerset County man has pleaded guilty in connection with an incident in which a 5-year-old boy was shot in the face as he walked home from school with his mother in Plainfield earlier this year, acting Union County Prosecutor Grace H. Park announced Tuesday.

Jose Rodriguez, 18, of North Plainfield admitted to a count of attempted murder and is facing a sentence of 16 years in state prison, with 85 percent of the sentence to be served before the possibility of parole, according to Union County Assistant Prosecutors Jim Tansey and Julie Peterman. The plea was entered Monday before state Superior Court Judge Thomas J. Walsh.

The shooting arose out of a dispute involving members of rival gangs flashing opposing gang signs at each other in the area of the 300 block of Plainfield Avenue on January 12, 2013, Tansey said. Rodriguez, a confirmed member of Plainfield’s 18th Street gang, pulled out a handgun and fired in the direction of nearby MS-13 gang members when he shot the young victim, with the bullet lodging in the boy’s spine.

An intensive joint investigation by the Plainfield Police Division and the Union County Homicide Task Force followed, and Rodriguez was arrested two days later, Tansey said. The young victim spent weeks in a local hospital before being sent home.

Rodriguez remains lodged in Union County Jail. He is scheduled to be sentenced on January 10, 2014.