Three charged in connection with Hillside fatal shooting

Three men are in custody and now criminally charged in connection with a fatal shooting that took place in Hillside earlier this year, acting Union County Prosecutor Lyndsay V. Ruotolo announced Friday.

Ameer J. Holcomb, 22, Maleak S. Williams, 22, and Ismael Merrill, 28, all of Newark, are each charged with first-degree murder and two related weapons offenses.   

At approximately 9:04 p.m. on Sunday, March 29, Hillside Police Department units responded to a report of a shooting on the 1400 block of Center Street, where they found 27-year-old Rafee H. Carter, who had sustained multiple gunshot wounds, according to Union County Assistant Prosecutors Bruce Holmes and Julie Peterman, who are prosecuting the case. Carter was subsequently transported to Newark’s University Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

An ensuing investigation led by the Union County Homicide Task Force and Hillside Police Department, assisted by several additional agencies – including members of the Union County Police Department Ballistics Unit, Union County Sheriff’s Office Crime Scene Unit, Essex County Prosecutor’s Office, and the Newark Police Department’s Major Crimes Division and Emergency Services Unit – resulted in the three defendants being identified as suspects in the case. Examination of numerous pieces of evidence revealed that the trio had followed Carter to the scene of the shooting in a BMW that had been stolen in Wall Township (Monmouth County) the day before; the vehicle was recovered in Newark three days after the shooting.

In announcing these charges, Ruotolo said, “I would like to thank the members of our Homicide Task Force for the incredible work they put into this investigation, and as well as the half-dozen agencies in two counties that worked with us to ensure that these three defendants would be held accountable for a terrible crime.”

Holcomb was arrested without incident at his home in Newark on Wednesday and lodged in the Union County Jail, while Williams and Merrill were served the charges while incarcerated for unrelated crimes in Essex County and Morris County, respectively. All three defendants will now have first appearances and detention hearings scheduled to take place in Union County Superior Court.

Anyone with information about this shooting is still being urged to contact Homicide Task Force Detective Sonia Rodriguez at 908-341-3380 or Sgt. Johnny Ho at 908-403-8271.

Convictions on crimes of this nature are commonly punishable by terms of up to life in state prison.

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