3 shot during NJ’s annual anti-violence event

24 Hours of Peace

The city aimed for 24 hours of peace, but less than five hours into the event, police tape stretched across crime scenes. (Photo: Aristide Economopoulos/NJ.com)

For the second year in a row, an anti-violence effort in Newark, New Jersey, has been fraught with gunfire, this year leaving two dead and one seriously injured.

The fifth annual “24 Hours of Peace” event ran from 6 p.m. Friday to 6 p.m. Saturday. Less than five hours after the event’s kickoff, around 10:45 p.m., police responded to a 911 call and found a young man suffering from a gunshot wound. The victim, 19-year-old Kevin Baker, was transported to the hospital but died a short time later.

About an hour later, just before midnight, officers responded to another shooting. Robert Harrison Jr., 24, was pronounced dead at the scene, and a second victim, an unnamed 27-year-old woman was taken to the hospital in critical condition.

At this point, authorities have no reason to believe the shootings are related, local media reported.

The anti-violence event concluded at 6 p.m. Saturday, but the weekend’s violence had not yet come to an end. Around 9:45 p.m., police found 42-year-old Akbar J. Scott lying in a driveway in front of a home in the Upper Clinton Hill neighborhood. Scott had been shot and was transported to a local hospital where he was pronounced dead about two hours later.

Scott’s death brought the city’s homicide rate to 63 so far this year. Additionally, it marks the second year the anti-violence event was hit with the exact type of violence the event aims to stop.

According to the event’s website, the annual endeavor was created by then Councilman Ras Baraka in 2012 after 12 people in the state were killed in 24 hours. The event is meant to bring awareness to violence not only in Newark, but across the state, and eradicate it through a number of grassroots efforts.

“Music, poetry, dance, film and spoken word will be the vehicle to promote the message of peace and unity in the community,” the website reads. “The overall message is to say ‘time out’ to the community, and to have 24 hours without any violent acts, physical or verbal, as a glimpse to a present/future, violence free community.”

During those 24 hours, event participants often hang out around street corners known for drug and gang activity, essentially attempting to shoo away such activities. The event also sponsors outdoor movies and other means for the community to come together.

“We’re striving to promote peace and community togetherness. We need to do it in a dramatic force to dramatize how serious this issue is for us.” Baraka said shortly before the first peace event.