Trooper is Shot After South Jersey Home Invasion — Multiple Arrests
A State Police trooper remains hospitalized with a gunshot wound following a violent home invasion that later resulted in the shooting on Saturday.
Attorney General Gurbir Grewal on Tuesday announced the arrests of five women charged in the home invasion as well as three men implicated in the trooper's shooting.
Detective Richard Hershey, 29, underwent surgery at Cooper University Hospital in Camden after the April 25 incident in Pittsgrove. He remains hospitalized in stable condition, police said.
The Salem County Prosecutor’s Office has charged five women, ranging in age from 22 to 52, for the home invasion robbery and the Attorney General’s Office charged three men, all from Bridgeton, in connection with Hershey's shooting.
One of the men, 21-year-old Najzeir “Naz” Hutchings, was charged with attempted murder of a law enforcement officer.
Grewal said Tuesday morning that he found it particularly troubling that the violence against the trooper unfolded during a pandemic. He said Hershey was simply doing his job, trying to keep the public safe.
The home invasion took place Saturday after 6 p.m. in the Harding Woods mobile home park.
Five women – later identified as 22-year-old Iramari Lazu and her 43-year-old mother, Yomari Lazu, as well as 32-year-old Jazmin Valentin, 39-year-old Maria Betancourt and 52-year-old Mayra Roblero – forced entry into the residence of a woman, beat her up and stole her iPhone, Grewal said.
Betancourt is a Vineland resident, while the other four women are from Bridgeton.
Callahan said the victim was an acquaintance of at least one of the women accused of attacking her. The resident suffered a broken rib and a torn lung.
Several hours later, Hershey arrived at the mobile home park to investigate the crime. Hershey arrived at the scene in plain clothes, driving an unmarked police vehicle, according to Callahan. A caravan of five vehicles approached him and several people got out, surrounding the trooper about 10:40 p.m., police said.
Grewal said at least three members of the group — Hutchings, as well as 19-year-old Kareen "Kai" Warner and 18-year-old Colby Opperman, were armed with guns.
Hershey identified himself as law enforcement and told the group to get back into their vehicles and to leave, Grewal said, but as one of the vehicles drove off, Hutchings opened fire, shooting Hershey in the upper leg. Hershey returned fire and the vehicles fled.
According to police, a woman in the caravan, who was not facing charges as of Tuesday afternoon, was injured during the gunfire and was treated for a leg wound.
Hutchings was charged with first-degree attempted murder, aggravated assault on a police officer, unlawful possession of a weapon, and possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose.
Warner and Opperman were each charged with a single count of second-degree unlawful possession of a weapon.
Police did not disclose details on what types of firearms the men were carrying.
Grewal said police believe the group involved in the earlier home invasion had in some form returned to carry out possible further harm against the same household but that Hershey's presence prevented even worse violence.
All five women accused of the home invasion were charged with three second-degree crimes – aggravated assault, robbery, and conspiracy to commit robbery – as well as third-degree burglary and conspiracy to commit burglary.
The three men and five women arrested all were being held in Salem County Jail pending detention hearings.
“We have zero tolerance for those who violently attack our law enforcement officers,” Grewal said in a written statement. “Our State Troopers put their lives on the line every day to keep our communities safe, and Saturday’s incident is an important reminder of the brave work our Troopers perform."
“Anyone attempting to murder a New Jersey State Trooper, or any member of law enforcement, will find no safe haven. Our pursuit will be relentless, unwavering and swift,” Callahan said in a written statement. “Fortunately, we did not suffer a tragedy. I commend our troopers and partnering agencies who ensured that those responsible were quickly arrested and no longer pose a threat to our communities.”