Another Republican Politician Shot Dead in NJ in the Past Week
The PSE&G employee shot to death Wednesday afternoon in the parking lot of the company's office in Somerset was a member of the Milford Borough Council and the second elected Republican to be fatally shot in the past week.
In both cases, authorities do not believe that politics were a motivating factor in the homicides.
Russell Heller, 51, was approached by former co-worker Gary T. Curtis, 58, of Washington, Wednesday morning. Police were called after 7 a.m. and Heller was pronounced dead at the scene.
Police later found Curtis at 10:20 AM with a self-inflicted gunshot wound in the parking lot of TD Bank Ballpark in Bridgewater.
“Russell was a dedicated and valuable member of the Milford and Hunterdon County community whose leadership and commitment will be sorely missed,” Zachary T. Rich, director of the Hunterdon County Board of Commissioners said in a statement.
"More importantly, however, Russell was a loving and caring father to his daughter and a dedicated and loyal friend to all of those who had the pleasure of knowing him."
NJ Globe reported Heller was elected to the council in 2017 and won re-election in 2020.
Somerset County Prosecutor John McDonald Thursday morning said politics were not the motivation for the shooting.
"The investigation has revealed that the shooting of Mr. Heller was not politically connected with his elected office or political affiliation," McDonald said. in a statement.
RLS Metro Breaking News reported the dispute between the two men originated with a "hostile work environment" that existed when Curtis worked for PSE&G.
Heller's shooting happened one week after Republican Sayreville Borough Council member Eunice Dwumfour was shot to death outside her home as she sat in her SUV. No arrests have been made in the case.
An example of gun violence
U.S. Rep. Tom Kean, R-N.J. 7th District, was "shocked and saddened" by Heller's death.
"Russell was an outstanding public servant who proudly represented the river town he loved. My prayers are with his family and the Milford community," the freshman congressman said in a tweet.
“He was so full of life, it’s just unbelievable that he’s gone. Something like this has never happened in borough history. We are very shaken by this," Mayor Henri Schepens said in a statement to NJ.com.
Gov. Phil Murphy and Attorney General Matt Platkin both sent Heller's family their condolences but also linked his death to gun violence.
"Every New Jerseyan deserves to sit on their porch, walk to the grocery store or go to work without fear of gun violence. Gov. Murphy and I will continue fighting to make this promise a reality," Platkin wrote.
"Our thoughts and prayers are with Russell Heller's family and friends in the wake of this tragic act of gun violence," Murphy wrote.
In a written statement, PSE&G spokeswoman Rebecca Mazzarella said the utility was "heartbroken" about the death of Heller who had worked for the utility for 11 years.
"He will be sorely missed by all and our thoughts are with his family at this difficult time. This event is tragic and disturbing and we are offering support to our employees as they process this," Mazzarella said, describing him as an "admired employee."
Curtis' Linkedin account said he was a maintenance supervisor but did not include how many years he had been with PSE&G.