Former fugitive who fled overseas following fatal shooting of innocent bystander sentenced to 60 years

A former Elizabeth resident who fled overseas after killing a man and attempting to kill two women during a drive-by shooting a little more than seven years ago has been sentenced to 60 years in state prison for the crime, acting Union County Prosecutor Lyndsay V. Ruotolo announced Friday.

Eslam Gad, 30, must serve at least 85 percent of that sentence before the possibility of parole under the provisions of New Jersey’s No Early Release Act, according to the terms set down Thursday afternoon by Union County Superior Court Judge Candido Rodriguez Jr.

At approximately 11:55 p.m. on Wednesday, August 8, 2012, the victim, 21-year-old Anthony Holmes Jr. of Pemberton Township (Burlington County), was in the area of 3rd and Pine Streets in Elizabeth with a relative and several friends when numerous gunshots were fired out of the window of a red Ford Mustang, according to Union County Assistant Prosecutors Bruce Holmes and Diana-Marie Laventure-Smith, who prosecuted the case.

The victim was struck by gunfire in the back of the head. Gad then proceeded down the street a short distance and stopped near a parked vehicle with two female occupants, at which time numerous additional rounds were fired. The Mustang then left the scene.  

Neither woman was struck by gunfire. Anthony Holmes, who was not believed to have been the intended target of the shooting, was rushed to University Hospital in Newark, where he was pronounced dead early the next day.

An intensive joint investigation involving the Union County Homicide Task Force, Union County Sheriff’s Office, and Elizabeth Police Department, resulted in Gad being identified as a suspect in the case, and criminal complaints were filed against him in Superior Court in late August 2012 – several days after he had boarded an international flight to Egypt.

In October 2012, investigators filed a Blue Notice with INTERPOL asking that the intergovernmental police organization trace and locate Gad. Then, in November 2016, members of the Prosecutor’s Office were notified that INTERPOL had obtained a provisional arrest warrant for Gad, who was located and apprehended in Manchester, England, with the assistance of the U.S. State Department and the Greater Manchester Police.

Gad was subsequently extradited back to New Jersey to await trial. He was indicted in early 2017, and in June 2019, he was convicted of murder, two counts of attempted murder, and two related weapons offenses following a nearly month-long trial and a brief period of jury deliberation spread over two days.

The victim’s sister and both of his parents read statements into the record during Thursday’s sentencing hearing, describing an unflappable and gregarious young man with a “giant laugh and giant smile” who managed to find humor and joy in just about everything.

Holmes became a father shortly before he was killed, and Holmes’s mother said the family tells her grandson that his dad is a “superhero in heaven” watching over him.

“He (Holmes) would be 29 this year,” she said. “No mother should ever have to bury her child.”

“I’m 22,” Holmes’s sister added, “and I have outlived my older brother.”

Assistant Prosecutor Holmes described the two bursts of gunfire that night as “separate, purposeful acts,” asking Rodriguez to sentence Gad to consecutive terms – a request the judge granted by imposing a 45-year sentence for the murder and a 15-year sentence for the attempted murders.

“He was spraying gunshots indiscriminately,” Rodriguez said. “This was total disregard for human life.”

Also assisting with this investigation and arrest were members of the FBI, U.S. Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Justice Department, and U.S. Marshals Service. The Prosecutor’s Office would like to thank all of the aforementioned participating agencies, as well as the numerous officers who assembled the case and testified at trial, including retired Lt. Michael Gorman, formerly of the Kean University Police Department and Union County Homicide Task Force; current Task Force Lt. Jose Vendas and Detective Sean Holcomb; and Sgt. Paul Ciccotti, Sgt. Scott Pevonis (retired), and Detective James Heller, all of the Elizabeth Police Department.