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"Carnage everywhere": At least 2 dead and dozen hurt after shooting at large New Jersey house party

A massive house party in southern New Jersey ended in gunfire late Saturday night that left at least two people dead and a dozen injured, CBS Philly reports. New Jersey State Police said about 100 to 200 people scattered after shots were fired at the party in Fairfield Township at around 11:50 p.m.

It was said to have been a '90s-themed birthday party.

Police on Monday identified the two people killed as 30-year-old Kevin Elliot and 25-year-old Asia Hester.

At least one of the wounded was reported in critical condition.

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy issued a statement Sunday urging anyone with information to step forward.

New Jersey State Police said Monday they had arrested Kevin Dawkins, 36, of Bridgeton, New Jersey in connection with the shooting. He is charged with unlawful possession of a weapon, possession of a large-capacity magazine and possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose, police said.

CBS Philly was near the scene Sunday morning, where police were fixated on an SUV parked at a cemetery across the street from the house. The vehicle has since been towed from the scene. It wasn't clear late Sunday if the vehicle was involved in the shooting.

Debris could be seen scattered around the property on Sunday.

Family members and attendees say the party for the nephew of the homeowner turned into a shooting gallery.

"It was carnage everywhere," John Fuqua, whose nephew was at the party, told CBS Philly. "They said the fire was coming from the woods, then when they went to run to their cars, they felt like it was coming that way. This was something set up like they trapped them in that yard."

CBS Philly spoke to a mother and daughter who were at the party. The mother said they heard at least 30 shots and when they tried to escape the home, they had to step over people who had already been hit.

Shooting New Jersey
Investigators on May 23, 2021 work the scene of a shooting at a large house party very late the night before in Fairfield Township, New Jersey. Matt Rourke / AP

A minister of a church across the street from the party scene, who also lives across the street, described what he saw.

"I heard what I thought was fireworks. I said, 'All right. Good. They're going to end this party. I can get some rest.' But then I listened more. It was in rapid succession so I came outside and we were just kind of watching the crowds. Just watching what they were doing and a lot of them were just hanging out so I thought the party was still going on," Reverend Michael Keene said.

Melissa Helmbrecht, founder and CEO of the civic group Hope Loft, observed that, "Over the coming days we'll have a lot of pieces to put back together. This isn't the first time we've had a lot of violence in our community."

She said she's heartbroken for her community.

"We're working so hard. That's the saddest thing. We're making so much progress. We've been working so hard to get things turned around. And — so this is definitely a setback," Helmbrecht said.

The mayor of neighboring Bridgeton was on the scene Saturday night and said he's never seen a police response like that ever before in his time being mayor or living in Cumberland County.

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