Teens charged in deadly Mother's Day bike blessing shooting

AP News
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Posted: May 15, 2015 3:27 PM

NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — A teenager who was shot and killed following a Mother's Day motorcycle blessing in Newark was in the wrong place at the wrong time, authorities said Friday as they charged four other teens in the case.

Two adults and two juveniles were charged Friday in connection to the death of 15-year-old Al-Shakeen Woodson. Jaqeuce Spinks, 19, and a 16-year-old from Newark were charged with murder and weapons offenses. Marquise Cephus, 18, and a 17-year-old face weapons charges.

The shooting stemmed from a long-running feud between Cephus and the 17-year-old and Spinks and the 16-year-old, the Essex County Prosecutor's Office said, adding that Woodson was an innocent bystander.

"This child was out trying to enjoy himself on an afternoon and it turned deadly," Mayor Ras Baraka said at a news conference.

The adults are held in the Essex County jail, and the juveniles have been taken to a youth detention center. It wasn't immediately clear if they had attorneys and they were not available for comment.

Acting Essex County Prosecutor Carolyn Murray said that access to the weapons led to a fatal ending to a long-running high school dispute.

"I think you would have a hard time going from any high school in the county, one to the other, to not find a similar type of a dispute, but it got taken on this occasion to a level — because firearms were made available and the defendants availed themselves of them — to a deadly level," Murray said.

The shooting happened during the Newark Knights motorcycle club bike blessing, held annually on Mother's Day, which led Baraka on Monday to announce plans to revise permit policies. Noting that city police didn't sign off on the event, Baraka said his administration is investigating how and why a permit for the event was signed by "employees within the city." Police officers were present at the event, officials said, and a flier promoting the blessing read: "Newark's finest will be on hand."

Baraka said Friday that event organizers are not responsible for the shooting, but that the city needs to better plan for the event.

"This is not a block party," Baraka said. "It's a festival and we have to plan it like it's a festival. ...We'll have a discussion with the bike community about how we proceed going forward.

"Unfortunately, we learn from tragic incidents like this that things have to be planned better."