Elizabeth Man Indicted in Connection with 2015 shootings

An Elizabeth man has been indicted by the Union County Grand Jury in connection with three homicides and one nonfatal shooting that occurred during a shooting spree in Elizabeth on June 25, 2015, and he has also been indicted for a homicide that occurred in Elizabeth on May 18, 2015, acting Union County Prosecutor Grace H. Park announced Wednesday.

Todd West, 24, was charged in the first indictment with murder, possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose and unlawful possession of a weapon in connection with the May 18, 2015 shooting death of 29 year-old Michael Thompkins of Elizabeth. The second indictment of West arose from a shooting spree on June 25, 2015 in Elizabeth and charges him with three counts of murder for the shooting deaths of 29 year-old Dennis Vega of Elizabeth, 29 year-old Jamil Payne of Elizabeth, and 32 year-old Kelvin Nelson of Elizabeth, as well as one count of attempted murder in the shooting of the only surviving victim of the shooting spree, 24 year-old Richard Marte of Elizabeth. That indictment also charges him with several weapons counts for the June 25 incidents.

Park noted that the events of June 25, 2015 in Elizabeth began to unfold when, at approximately 2:30 a.m., Elizabeth Police received calls from witnesses who heard gunshots and reported that a man was lying on the ground at the intersection of New Point Road and Seventh Street. Upon arrival, it was determined that the man, later identified as victim Dennis Vega, had been shot several times and was soon thereafter pronounced dead.

Later that night, shortly after 9:50 p.m., Elizabeth Police Department units responded to the area of Sixth Street and South Park Street in response to calls about shots being fired and an individual lying on the ground. Upon arrival, the units immediately located Payne in the middle of South Park Street suffering from multiple gunshot wounds. Mr. Payne was pronounced dead at the scene. 

About an hour later, just before 10:50 p.m., while investigators were still on scene at the location of Payne’s shooting, the Elizabeth Police Department received calls about shots being fired in front of 320 Clark Place, less than a mile away from Payne’s murder. Law enforcement personnel from several agencies reached the scene and immediately discovered Nelson deceased after having been shot numerous times.

Less than 10 minutes after the first reports of Nelson’s shooting, Elizabeth Police Dispatch received yet another call indicating that several shots had been fired, this time at the intersection of Jackson Avenue and Julia Street. Upon their arrival, officers observed Marte, alive and suffering from severe gunshot wounds. Mr. Marte was taken to a local hospital and treated for his injuries. 

As the investigation of the shootings unfolded, it became clear that the same vehicle was identified in the immediate vicinity of each shooting. There was no information as to who the owner or operator of that vehicle was at the time. The investigation also later revealed that the same .38-caliber, six-shot revolver was used in all of the June 25 shootings.

An exhaustive investigation conducted by members of the Union County Prosecutor’s Office, in conjunction with the Elizabeth Police Department, the Union County Police Department and Sheriff’s offices, as well as other law enforcement agencies, revealed that Todd West was responsible for the June 25 murder of Jamil Payne. On July 2, 2015, a complaint and arrest warrant for West in the murder of Payne was obtained by Union County Assistant Prosecutor Michael Henn, who is prosecuting West and who also presented the cases to the Grand Jury. According to Henn, West fled the Elizabeth area prior to the issuance of the warrants and was the subject of an intensive manhunt spearheaded by Union County authorities.

According to Henn, “shortly after committing his murders and an attempted murder here in Elizabeth, West fled the area, eventually making his way to Pennsylvania, where he then killed three other innocent people in a shooting spree on July 5, 2015.”  On July 6, 2015, Todd West was apprehended by the authorities in Allentown, Pennsylvania for the shooting death of two individuals in Allentown and one person in Easton, Pennsylvania. 

The thorough, continuous investigation by the Union County Prosecutor’s Office Homicide Task Force and the aforementioned agencies led to additional murder, attempted murder, and weapons charges for the June 25 shooting spree and also established that West was responsible for the murder of his cousin, 29 year-old Michael Thompkins, who was found shot to death in a second-floor hallway of his apartment building on Parker Road in Elizabeth on May 18, 2015.    

Henn noted that West pleaded guilty in Lehigh County Court, on October 27 of this year, to three counts of first-degree murder. West was subsequently sentenced on those charges to three consecutive life terms of imprisonment without the possibility of parole. Henn further confirmed that West will be transferred back to New Jersey in the near future to be formally arraigned and “to face justice for the killings and the attempted murder that he committed here in our State.”

Acting Prosecutor Park would like to thank and recognize the hard work and tireless efforts of the members of the Union County Prosecutor’s Office Homicide Task Force; The Elizabeth Police Department; The Union County Sheriff’s Office; The Union County Police Department; and members of various law enforcement agencies in New Jersey, as well as in both Lehigh and Northampton counties in Pennsylvania.  Acting Prosecutor Park also extends her condolences to the friends and families of the victims in both New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

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