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    Nearly one-third of people admitted to a New Jersey hospital last year sought treatment for a mental illness, an addiction, or a medical condition exacerbated by a psychiatric condition, according to mental health advocates and hospital executives.

    TRENTON -- Nearly one-third of people admitted to a New Jersey hospital last year sought treatment for a mental illness, an addiction, or a medical condition exacerbated by a psychiatric condition, according to mental health advocates and hospital executives. These patients likely waited at least three days in the emergency room before a hospital found the room to admit them.

    But given the option to begin a process last winter that would have solicited offers from hospitals to open more beds for psychiatric patients, the Christie administration declined to do so. Officials postponed the next review to 2017, according to a notice on the state Health Department's website.

    Calling the decision "unconscionable" and "disconnected from reality," Assemblyman Gary Schaer (D-Passaic) and 14 other Democratic lawmakers, including Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto (D-Hudson), are now seeking an explanation as to why the state cancelled "a call. . . for comprehensive rehabilitation beds and services."


    RELATED: After Hagedorn: Same care, new setting


    They sent a letter to acting Health Commissioner Cathleen Bennett on July 30 asking for her to reconsider the decision, and went public with it this week after getting no response, Schaer said.

    Bennett's spokeswoman Dawn Thomas said on Tuesday the commissioner was reviewing the letter and declined to comment.

    Nicole Brossoie, spokeswoman for the Department of Human Services, the state's mental health agency, said the state cancelled the call for more beds partly because hospitals and other treatment providers had failed to open 13 new beds they had won approval for in 2008. Nine of those beds were supposed to be provided by Princeton House Behavioral Health, and the remaining four by Newton Memorial Hospital, which has since been taken over by Atlantic Health System based in Morristown.

    "We continue to follow up with the 2008...awardees who have not yet (opened) their beds to determine how to move forward," Brossoie said.

    Schaer noted that over the past several months, lawmakers have hosted three roundtable sessions that featured discussions about "behavioral and mental health, one of them being our state's inpatient psychiatric delivery system.

    "Throughout these discussions, behavioral and other healthcare professionals continuously raised the need for increased bed capacity," Schaer said. "It seems to me on the face of it the decision makes no logical sense, given the need based on what virtually everyone at those sessions said - the presidents and CEOs of their respective institution. One would expect logically to see the department taking a leadership role to answer those concerns. Canceling the call is a total disconnect from the reality."

    According to the health department's website, "The Department has reviewed statewide need for new or expanded comprehensive rehabilitation beds and services and determined that need has declined due to national policy changes that have influenced admission rates for comprehensive rehabilitation beds and services."

    The department's decision "confused" members of the New Jersey Hospital Association, said Mary Ditri, the association's director for professional practice.

    "The volume of patients coming in and out of the hospital for mental health care and substance abuse care continues to grow, regardless of age, regardless of gender, of location," said Ditri, who attended the discussions with hospital executives and led by Schaer.

    In 2014, roughly 839,000 people came to acute-care hospitals with an underlying mental health or substance abuse problem, Ditri said. Of those people, 534,000 came to the emergency room and were never admitted. These patients represented nearly 18 percent of all emergency room visits, up from 12 percent in 2008.

    Hospitals admitted the remaining 305,000 people, which represented 31 percent of all patients admitted last year, Ditri said. She said did not have complete admission data to compare the rate of growth over time.

    Added to that is the level of complexity of cases, Ditri said. One example is the spike in the number of people diagnosed with a mental illness and a developmental disability.

    Rita O'Grady of Union Township said emergency rooms have become a second home for her 23-year-old son, Tyler Loftus, who is diagnosed with autism and a mental illness. From January 2014 to January 2015, he spent 99 days outside of his group home, most often in emergency rooms waiting to be admitted to Trinitas Regional Medical Center, the only specialized unit in the state for people who are dually diagnosed with a mental illness and a developmental disability.

    He ends up in the ER because group home employees are instructed to call 911 when he exhibits aggressive behavior and makes violent threats, O'Grady said.

    "He has gone to Trinitas probably seven or eight times and waited up to 10 days to get in there," O'Grady said. "He's had to sit on a cot in a hallway exposed to infectious disease. They inject them continually with drugs to chemically restrain him to keep him calm."

    "The population who is disabled is on Medicaid and the reimbursement is very low. These are not money-generating units in a hospital," O'Grady said. "Mandates need to be created that designates a hospital unit (for disabled people with mental illness) in every county."

    The trend in mental health care for 30 years has been "diversion" from hospitals, said Robert Davison, executive director for the Mental Health Association of Essex County. Some people don't need inpatient care, or don't need it for long, Davison said. But he also sees how the high cost of treatment is driving the decisions to eliminate or decline to open more short-term and long-term psychiatric beds.

    Acute care hospitals charge about $800 a day, he said.

    "Our experience in Essex County is very difficult to get someone hospitalized and the decisions are more often financially driven than clinically driven," Davison said.

    Davison said he didn't know why state officials declined to seek more hospital beds. "My opinion is they don't want to pay for it" through Medicaid.

    Once admitted, the hospitals push for a short stay, he added. When he joined the Essex County nonprofit in 1999, the average stay was 23.5 days. Last year, it was 5.6 days.

    The Christie administration's decision to close Hagedorn Psychiatric Hospital in  Lebanon Township in 2012, taking with it roughly 285 beds, "was absurd, and did harm," Davison said. "The system should be redesigned to give people the treatment they need."

    Schaer said the legislature will explore what role it can play expand the availability of patient care. He sponsored a bill that would create an electronic central registry of psychiatric beds, so hospitals would know in real time what is available.

    Schaer acknowledged: "The (health) department has very significant control here."

    The letter was signed by Prieto, Majority Leader Lou Greenwald (D-Camden), Health and Senior Citizens Committee Chairman Herb Conaway (D-Burlington), Human Services Committee Chairwoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen), Financial Institutions and Insurance Committee Chairmman Craig Coughlin (D-Middlesex), Women and Children Committee Chairwoman Pamela Lampitt (D-Monmouth) and Assembly members Nancy Pinkin (D-Middlesex), Daniel Benson (D-Mercer), Shavonda Sumter and Benjie Wimberly (both D-Passaic), Gabriella Mosquera (D-Gloucester), Joseph Lagana and Timothy Eustace (both D-Bergen), and Cleopatra Tucker (D-Essex).

    Susan K. Livio may be reached at slivio@njadvancemedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @SusanKLivio. Find NJ.com Politics on Facebook.

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    Officials announced Tuesday an anticipated influx into the police department.

    NEWARK -- City officials announced with cautious optimism Wednesday a plan that could see as many as 250 new police officers added to the Newark police department by next June. 

    Through a series of new classes of police academy recruits, city officials announced Tuesday they expect several hundred new officers to be added to the force - the first significant influx of manpower since sweeping layoffs hit the NPD in 2010. 


    SEE MORE: 6 murders in a week -- How Newark is responding to homicide surge

    "This is a good thing for our strained police force," Mayor Ras Baraka said in a statement about the new recruits.

    The mayor, who also said he will continue to push for the re-accreditation of Newark's own police academy to hasten the pace of adding officers, has often argued that a combination of increasing law enforcement resources and creating better community relationships could combat the city's crime rate. 

    But, some NJ.com readers questioned how many new officers the department will actually end up with (considering impending retirements and a percentage of recruits who will not pass the academy), and were skeptical that the potential influx of officers would have an impact. 

    "(It's won't), unless they are on the streets, not in cars, walking beats and making community relationships," reader rollaroundtheworld said. User upsidedown added, "1,000 on the books already and they can't get the job done." 

    Still, some showed some optimism. User jjerseycity21 said, "I don't think it can hurt. I guess that's to be determined." 

    So, tell us, do you think more cops in Newark will make a difference? Vote in our poll above and comment below. 

    Jessica Mazzola may be reached at jmazzola@njadvancemedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @JessMazzola. Find NJ.com on Facebook.


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    Authorities are an investigating an apparent hanging death inside Branch Brook Park.

    police lights file photo.jpgAuthorities responded to the scene early Wednesday morning, officials say (file photo)

    NEWARK -- Authorities are an investigating an apparent hanging death inside Branch Brook Park, said Essex County Prosecutor's Office spokeswoman Katherine Carter.

    Essex County Prosecutor's Office investigators have responded to an area of the park near Bloomfield Avenue and Lake Street, where a male victim was discovered dead of an apparent hanging early Wednesday morning, Carter said.

    The victim's name has yet to be released by authorities. No other details were immediately available.

    Vernal Coleman can be reached at vcoleman@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter at @vernalcoleman. Find NJ.com on Facebook.

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    Foundation for Newark's Future President and CEO Kimberly Baxter McClain said the organization will spend the remaining $30 million in its coffers by June 2016

    NEWARK - The Foundation for Newark's Future announced a gift to district teachers and principals Wednesday morning, an act that kicks off the final year of its often controversial plan to transform the city's schools.

    Announced at First Avenue School in the North Ward, the $700,000 donation will provide every public school principal in the district with $7,500 to buy new supplies or expand programming, and $100 to every teacher.

    FNF President and CEO Kimberly Baxter McClain said it was evidence of its mission to provide tangible support to district employees working directly with students, in addition to its work to create more a system of school choice for parents and further merit-based compensation for teachers.

    "At the foundation, we do focus a lot on systemic change. We also focus on efforts on the ground. We believe it takes a combination to really move the district in the right direction," she said.

    McClain said the foundation has approximately $30 million left in its coffers, which it intends to expend by June 2016, in accordance with Zuckerberg and other donor's original five-year plan.

    "It's a finite initiative. The idea was to be kind of a philanthropic shot in the arm," she said.

    Much of the talk surrounding Zuckerberg's donation, which was later matched by other donors such as the philanthropic arms of corporate giants such as Goldman Sachs and Ford, has been focused on the introduction of the "One Newark" open enrollment system, the growth of charter schools and other changes to Newark's historically underachieving schools.


    MORE: With eye on local control, Newark officials push to speed up state evaluation process


    State Sen. Teresa Ruiz (D-Essex) said its impact on the city had yet to fully take shape, as students prepare to return to class for a second year under the open enrollment plan on Thursday.

    Its rollout last year drew various complaints about student placement, transportation and other confusion. While Ruiz said she remains fundamentally opposed to the system, she reported hearing far fewer problems thus far in 2015.

    "The moral intent of the 'One Newark' plan, where you want to give every parent and student the opportunity to select the school is something every human being can understand and support," she said.

    "The focus should be making sure that our schools that are in need of improvement have the wraparound services and resources to make every school in the district successful."

    More recent announcements, however, have largely focused on assisting teachers and other employees as they adapt to the new landscape, including a program to provide tuition money and a stipend to recent layoff victims.

    On Wednesday, First Avenue School Principal Kathy Duke-Jackson said she intended to use her $7,500 gift, accessed through an online platform called ClassWallet, on professional development programs aimed at helping teachers process PARCC assessments and other data.

    "We want to make sure that our teachers know how to look at those numbers, and know how to work with those numbers to ensure student success," she said.

    Newark Teachers Union President John M. Abeigon said he was thankful for what he viewed as an acknowledgement that a $90 fund for supplies the district provides teachers was "nowhere near enough." However, he suggested the outside dollars might be better utilized to restore many of the jobs lost to layoffs in recent years.

    "If someone truly wants to help the students of Newark, they would insist that any funding be used to restore these positions, many of which belonged to Newark citizens," he said in a statement.

    The foundation's sunset comes during an uncertain time for city schools, as officials wrangle over how to best navigate a long-awaited path out of state oversight.

    Baxter McClain acknowledged that FNF dollars would no longer be on hand when that transition is complete.

    Some programs, such as those aimed at improving student literacy, will continue in the district with help from outside donors, while others will undoubtedly expire without proper funding. However, she remained hopeful that the organization's impact might still be felt in the schools for years to come.

    "Some of them may be one-time, that's the reality. But our hope is that even if some of the programs aren't continued, the conditions that are created and the culture shift will remain in effect beyond our watch," she said.

    Dan Ivers may be reached at divers@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter at @DanIversNJ. Find NJ.com on Facebook.

     
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    The driver was not injured in the blaze.

    NEWARK -- A driver was not injured Wednesday morning when his tractor-trailer burst into flames on the New Jersey Turnpike, authorities confirmed. 

    The driver pulled over onto the shoulder near Exit 14 on the Turnpike northbound in Newark at around 11:36 a.m. after he started experiencing some mechanical problems, New Jersey State Police Lt. Brian Polite said Wednesday. The driver then got out of the vehicle when he noticed flames, Polite said. 

    The front of the tractor was "completely gutted," Polite said, but the flatbed, which was hauling a large piece of metal, did not sustain any permanent damage, he said.

    "(The fire) appeared to be worse than it actually was," Polite said. 

    The right two lanes of the highway were closed while fire departments from Newark and Elizabeth responded to put out the blaze, authorities said. The scene was cleared in less than an hour, police said.

    Jessica Mazzola may be reached at jmazzola@njadvancemedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @JessMazzola. Find NJ.com on Facebook.

    IMG_1461.jpgTractor-trailer fire. (Photo courtesy Danny Ortiz)
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    An early morning pursuit of an allegedly stolen vehicle by city police ended after the fleeing vehicle crashed into a car, officials say.

    police lights file photo.jpgThe two injured in the crash were hospitalized with minor injuries, officials say (file photo)

    NEWARK --An early morning pursuit of an allegedly stolen vehicle by city police ended after the fleeing vehicle crashed into a car, injuring its two occupants, authorities said.

    The crash occurred at approximately 11 a.m. near the intersection of Fabyan Place and Nye Avenue, said said Essex County Prosecutor's Office spokeswoman Katherine Carter.

    The two injured persons -- whose names have not been released by authorities -- were hospitalized with "relatively minor injuries," Carter said. Newark Police are investigating the robbery, she added.


    RELATED: 1 dead, five arrested, following Newark police chase

    A female suspect believed to be the driver of the allegedly stolen vehicle has been taken into custody, authorities said. A second suspect fled the vehicle following the crash and remains at-large, authorities said.

    Officials did not immediately release the name of the apprehended female suspect, or say if she has been charged.

    An investigation of the pursuit by the Professional Standards Bureau of the Essex County Prosecutor's Office is ongoing, Carter said.

    It was the third recent Newark police chase to end in in an injury. On Aug. 27, a woman walking her dog near Branch Brook Park was struck by a driver pursued by police on suspicion of speeding.

    Days later, a carjacking suspect was killed while trying to flee after he was struck by a pursuing Newark police vehicle, officials said.

    Vernal Coleman can be reached at vcoleman@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter at @vernalcoleman. Find NJ.com on Facebook.

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    Fatal violence unusual in the South Ward neighborhood along Chancellor Avenue, residents say

    NEWARK - Authorities are investigating a fatal shooting near Maple and Chancellor avenues at 3:30 Wednesday afternoon.
    It was the city's 63rd homicide of the year, authorities said. 

    Witnesses reported hearing at least five shots, breaking the calm in what several residents described as a normally quiet neighborhood near Weequahic High School.

    The Essex County Prosecutor's identified the victim as Nyfee Harrell, 21, a city resident, who was pronounced dead at the scene. 

    Witnesses said after hearing the shots, they saw several people running in the vicinity of the shootings, which occurred near a corner store and a gas station. One resident said it was near a bus stop where a large group of young men frequently congregates. 


    RELATED: Police identify suspect killed following chase 


    "You haven't seen anything like this in this area in a long time," one woman said of the neighborhood of wide, tree-lined streets and well-kept front yards near the Hillside border. 

    "This is a really friendly block," said another woman, who moved to the neighborhood a few years ago. 

    Paul Milo may be reached at pmilo@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @PaulMilo2. FindNJ.com on Facebook

     

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    Township detectives closed out a year-long investigation last week by arresting two Essex County men who were allegedly involved with a credit card fraud operation that originated overseas.

    Plights.jpgTwo Essex County men were arrested after police say they were involved with a credit card scheme that originated overseas. 

    BOONTON TOWNSHIP - Township detectives closed out a year-long investigation last week by arresting two Essex County men who were allegedly involved with a credit card fraud operation that originated overseas.

    The charges filed against Emmanuel Duker-Eshun, 21, of South Orange, and Dominic Eshun, 29, of Irvington, stem from an investigation launched by township police in June 2014 after a resident reported her credit card was fraudulently used to make $700 worth of online purchases, police said.

    Some of those items included cell phones, which police said wound up being shipped to the resident's home since wireless carriers require the devices be sent to the purchaser's billing address.

    A few hours after turning the phones over to police, the woman observed "a suspicious man" on her property who told her to "give him the package that was delivered to the home" earlier that day, police said.

    Although the woman called police, he fled in a car with another man prior to the arrival of officers, police said.

    Township detectives learned during the course of their investigation who the pair was and how they obtained people's credit card numbers.


    PLUSEx-restaurant worker allegedly burglarized former employer


    Police also tracked several fraudulent purchases that had been shipped to various locations under fictitious names and were eventually able to pinpoint an address for the perpetrator, police said.

    Duker-Eshun and Eshun later told detectives an individual in Ghana provided them with the stolen credit card information and instructed them to buy items online, police said.

    The two men also said it was their job to ship the illegally obtained merchandise overseas in order to receive money, police said.

    Both men are being held in the Morris County Correctional Facility on $20,000 bail, police said.

    Duker-Eshun and Eshun were charged with fencing, and conspiracy to receive stolen property. Duker-Eshun faces an additional charge of criminal attempt of theft of moveable property.

    Sergeant Thomas Cacciabeve said the two men are not related.

    Kimberly Redmond may be reached at kredmond@njadvancemedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @kr0618. Find NJ.com on Facebook.

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    The long-awaited supermarket is part of a mixed-use retail and residential development called Springfield Avenue Marketplace

    NEWARK - A ShopRite supermarket is set to open on Springfield Avenue later this month, bringing hundreds of jobs and a new option for groceries in an area of the city once called a "food desert."

    Ryan Smith, a spokesman for Illinois-based Tucker Development, said the store will officially open on Sept. 30 after roughly two years of construction.

    The store is the anchor of the Tucker-backed Springfield Avenue Marketplace, a $94 million mixed-use retail and housing complex that borders South Orange Avenue to the north and Jones Street to the west.

    ShopRite spokeswoman Karen O'Shea said the store will employ 360 employees at the "full-service, state of the art" store, 85 of which will be full-time. Of 340 who are already hired, more than 60 percent are Newark residents.


    PLUS: Officials break ground on Whole Foods project once called Newark's 'Holy Grail'

    In addition to the usual offerings of food and other items, the 70,000-square foot location will also include other amenities, such as community meeting rooms and an on-site dietician.

    "It's going to be fantastic store. It will have everything you'd expect from Shop-Rite and more," O'Shea said.

    The residential portion of the project, 24 Jones, will begin filling 152 market-rate units by later October or early fall, according to Smith.

    The complex also includes plans for retails and a pair of fast-food restaurants, which rankled some of its neighbors earlier this year. It is unclear when those might open, though Smith said it would be later than the Shop-Rite and residential buildings.

    It will also feature another 55,000 square feet of retail space, though no other tenants had been confirmed as of earlier this week.

    The ShopRite marks the latest development in something of a grocery store renaissance for Newark, which until recent years had gone decades without a new option where they could fill their cabinets.

    That streak ended in 2012 with an opening of a Food Depot in the Central Ward, and is set to continue next year when a Whole Foods opens in the former Hahne's department store building on Broad Street.

    Tucker has also been tapped for other local developments, including a Courtyard Marriott opened in 2012, making it the first new hotel built downtown in 40 years.

    Edison-based ShopRite claims 255 family-owned locations stretching from Maryland to Connecticut. The Newark location will be owned and operated by the Greenstein family, which has owned the supermarket's location in Bloomfield for 60 years.

    Dan Ivers may be reached at divers@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter at @DanIversNJ. Find NJ.com on Facebook.


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    Five other juveniles were arrested after the chase, authorities said.

    NEWARK -- The suspect killed Tuesday in the aftermath of a chase with city police was a Newark teen, law enforcement sources said Wednesday, Essex County Prosecutor's Office authorities confirmed.

    As sources revealed to NJ Advance Media earlier today, Tyree Crawford, 18, was one of six occupants of a silver Jaguar sedan authorities said was carjacked early Tuesday morning in the city's Vailsburg section.

    After the being spotted by police, the suspects attempted to evade apprehension, prompting a police pursuit through city's South Ward. Crawford was struck while attempting to flee the vehicle after the chase came to a halt on Hawthorne Avenue, authorities said.

    The names of the five juveniles--whose ages range 14 to 17-years-old--apprehended by police following the pursuit are being withheld because of their ages, authorities said. Four of the juveniles are from Newark, while another resides in Orange, they added.

    The exact circumstances of the crash that took Crawford's life remain unclear. But according to authorities, Crawford left the car and was hit by an oncoming police vehicle. He was pronounced dead at the scene.


    RELATED: 2 injured in Newark police chase, authorities say

    The five remaining suspects, who authorities said were inside the car during the police pursuit, are all juveniles, the source said. Each has been charged with multiple offenses, including receiving stolen property, resisting arrest and possession of two handguns authorities said were found inside the stolen vehicle, officials said.

    One of the five now stands charged with the carjacking that prompted the police chase, authorities said. All five have been remanded into custody at the Essex County Juvenile Detention Center.

    The incident began early Tuesday morning with the carjacking of a silver Jaguar sedan, authorities said.

    The five arrested suspects are now being investigated for their involvement in the carjacking, a subsequent armed robbery multiple shootings, authorities said.

    Police apprehended three suspects immediately, while Crawford was struck by a police vehicle, authorities said.

    Another two suspects ran off to a residence on West Runyon Street, prompting an hours-long standoff with the police department's SWAT team.

    An Essex County Prosecutor's Office Professional Standards Bureau investigation into the death of the suspect struck by a Newark police vehicle is in its early stages, officials said.

    Vernal Coleman can be reached at vcoleman@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter at @vernalcoleman. Find NJ.com on Facebook.


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    Two of the men were arrested after allegedly being found with 348 envelopes of heroin inside a cab

    NEWARK - Five people, included two reputed members of the Bloods street gang, were arrested on drug distribution charges during a pair of incidents on Tuesday, authorities said.

    Essex County Sheriff Armando Fontoura said that narcotics detectives from his department were conducting surveillance in downtown Newark around 4 p.m., trailing suspected Bloods member and drug dealer Khasif Parrish.

    They looked on as Parrish stopped near the corner of Market Street and Mulberry Street to place a phone call, before quickly walking to McCarter Highway and joining another man in the back of a silver cab, according to Fontoura.

    The detectives followed both on foot and in unmarked vehicles as the cab rolled away. As it approached Edison Place and Railroad Avenue, they boxed the vehicle in before activating their sirens.


    MORE: 2 injured in Newark police chase, authorities say

    Inside, they found Parrish and 31-year-old Jose Gonzalez, along with a plastic bag stuffed with 348 glassine envelopes of heroin, Fontoura said. Both were taken into custody on charges including narcotics distribution, possession and conspiracy.

    Sheriff's officers also made a pair of arrests during a surveillance operation earlier that day, as they prepared to execute a search warrant at 161 North 12th Street.

    "With our plainclothes operation in place at noon, our officers observed a group of people loitering on the residence's porch," Fontoura said. "After observing what appeared to be a narcotics transaction, the (Bureau of Narcotics) detectives moved in and announced their presence."

    A 22-year-old woman on the porch threw a bag of marijuana aside as the officers approached, and a man was carrying two glassine envelopes of heroin, according to the sheriff. A third man was found to have open warrants out of both Newark and East Orange municipal courts.

    Inside, police found the target of their investigation, 23-year-old purported Blood Devaunte Eatman, as well as 40-year-old Shadur Borden of East Orange and a 17-year-old boy.

    A search of the home uncovered 390 envelopes of heroin stamped "SOUL FOOD", as well as 66 bags of crack cocaine hidden in a bedroom drawer, Fontoura said.

    Eatman, Borden and the 17-year-old were all charged with two counts of drug distribution and a single count of conspiracy.

    Parrish and Gonzalez were each ordered held at the Essex County Jail on separate $85,000 bonds, while Eatman and Borden were being held on $100,000 bonds. The 17-year-old was taken to the county youth detention center to await a hearing in family court.

    The street value of the drugs seized during both investigations is estimated at around $10,000.

    Dan Ivers may be reached at divers@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter at @DanIversNJ. Find NJ.com on Facebook.

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    Two more remain at large, authorities said.

    Newark police carOne teen was arrested and two more are at large, authorities said. (File photo) 

    NEWARK -- Authorities are looking for two teenagers who they say were involved in a police pursuit that resulted in two injuries Wednesday morning - the third such chase in Newark over the past week. 

    The chase occurred at about 11 a.m., when police saw an allegedly stolen car that is believed to have been involved in a robbery driving through Newark, Acting Essex County Prosecutor Carolyn A. Murray announced in a release Wednesday. It ended when the vehicle struck two other cars -- one parked, and the other carrying two state workers -- near Fabian Place and Nye Avenue, she said. 


    SEE ALSO: Suspect killed during police chase was Newark teen, authorities say

    A juvenile female believed to be driving the car was taken into custody and charged with receiving stolen property, Murray said. Two juvenile males who authorities say were in the car remain at large, she said. 

    The two people in the struck car were hospitalized with minor injuries, authorities said. 

    The Professional Standard Bureau of the Essex County Prosecutor's Office is investigating the pursuit, officials said. The Bureau is also investigating two similar chases over the past week - one on Aug. 27 in which a fleeing car struck a 79-year-old pedestrian, and one Tuesday in which a teen suspect died after being hit by a police cruiser, authorities have said. 

    Jessica Mazzola may be reached at jmazzola@njadvancemedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @JessMazzola. Find NJ.com on Facebook.

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    LIVINGSTON — In this photo from the 1930s, a work crew is seen converting an old chicken coop into residential housing in Livingston. The sign on the side of the building reads "USA WPA Work Program." WPA refers to the Works Progress Administration, a program founded under President Franklin D. Roosevelt with the passage of the Emergency Relief Appropriation Act...

    LIVINGSTON -- In this photo from the 1930s, a work crew is seen converting an old chicken coop into residential housing in Livingston.

    The sign on the side of the building reads "USA WPA Work Program." WPA refers to the Works Progress Administration, a program founded under President Franklin D. Roosevelt with the passage of the Emergency Relief Appropriation Act of 1935 to address the ongoing effects of the Great Depression.

    According to pbs.org, "of all of Roosevelt's New Deal programs, the WPA is the most famous, because it affected so many people's lives. Roosevelt's vision of a work-relief program employed more than 8.5 million people. For an average salary of $41.57 a month, WPA employees built bridges, roads, public buildings, public parks and airports."

    The acronym came to stand for "Work Projects Administration" when it was renamed by the federal government in 1939.

    If you would like to share a photo that provides a glimpse of history in your community, please call 973-836-4922 or send an email to essex@starledger.com.


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    Mayor Ras Baraka comments on two ironically-timed homicides that he said speak to a need for a culture change in Newark.

    NEWARK -- The concept is simple enough. One day in the state's largest city during which its residents celebrate community and peaceful coexistence, and gather against violence.

    This year, while hundreds of residents gathered at the annual '24 Hours of Peace' rally on Aug. 28 and 29, two men were gunned down in the city.

    "It is disheartening," Mayor Ras Baraka, who helped found the event five years ago, said in a phone interview about the shooting deaths.

    "But, we didn't really expect that nothing at all would happen because we were holding this event...we are still in the middle of a rough summer."

    -97ab54430798116d.jpg'Occupy the City,' an anti-violence march and rally on Market St. and Broad St., organized by Mayor Ras Baraka, in Newark, NJ 8/8/15 (Alex Remnick | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com) 

    '24 Hours of Peace' was the most recent in a string of similar events that the Baraka administration has touted as community-building and anti-violence.

    Thousands of residents turned out for an 'Occupy the City' rally, the culmination of a string of 'Occupy the Block' visits Baraka has made to crime-ridden neighborhoods. The events, he has said, were meant to discuss issues with neighborhood residents, and provide examples of positive, constructive behavior to youth in the city.

    Later this month, the city will join NFL players, activists, and thinkers from across the state and country to host the "Summit II" at NJPAC, a one-day event that will outline a new city stance on public safety.

    Do peace rallies make a difference?

    While Baraka says that he does not believe that anti-violence events are enough on their own to combat violence in the long-plagued city, they will continue to be a part of his crime-fighting strategy.

    "I've been watching the crime rate in this city go up and down for the past 20 years," Baraka said.

    "The only consistent things have been poverty, unemployment, a feeling of helplessness, and this internal idea that violence is the answer...we have to replace those ideas with positive ideas."


    RELATED: How Newark is responding to summer crime surge

    In the short term, Baraka said the rallies and peace events have made some headway in the strained relationship between the community and the city's police department. Several recent arrests, he said, have been aided by tips and information from local residents.

    Part of the mayor's goal in hosting the events, he said, is to help Newarkers feel empowered to take a stand against the crime in their neighborhoods.

    "People need the strength to stand up and say what's happening, (and to know) that this city doesn't belong to a few individuals who choose to make violence their calling and murder their business."

    The crime fighting discussion comes at a time when cities across the country are experiencing an uptick in shooting violence.

    According to a Reuters report, America's 35 largest cities have experienced an average increase of 19 percent in their homicide rates so far this year. In the midst of a national discussion on police responses to urban crime, experts have debated the most effective ways to curb violence in U.S. cities.

    "No one group owns the problem of gun violence, (and so) no one group has in its pocket the solution," Wayne Fisher, a criminal justice professor and director of the Police Institute at Rutgers, said in a phone interview.

    Events like 24 Hours of Peace, "can only have a positive impact (on the community). The question is, how much (of an impact)?"

    Changing the Culture

    homicide.JPGCrime scene set up around one of two daytime fatal shootings during Newark's '24 Hours of Peace.' (Vernal Coleman | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com) 

    The 24-hour long peace event featured musical performances, speakers, and organized sporting and children's events. It was held in a South Ward neighborhood that has been the location of at least five homicides over the past year.

    That neighborhood was filled with residents and positive events, the mayor said.

    But, authorities have identified two victims of apparently unrelated fatal shootings in other parts of the city while the event was taking place - 42-year-old Condell Walker, who was killed near the construction site of a shopping complex in the 200 block of Springfield Avenue; and Steven Watkins, 36, who was gunned down in the 300 block of 6th Avenue.

    Days after the shootings, Baraka announced a move that he said will bolster the ranks of the Newark Police Department with new recruits. In reaction to a previous summer crime surge, police officials announced officer reassignments, and other law enforcement-based strategies also aimed at reducing the city's rising shooting rate.

    In an announcement about the new officers, Police Director Eugene Venable included a plea to residents to work with the department on apprehending criminals.

    "We cannot merely 'arrest our way' out of crime," he said in a statement at the time. "We need our residents to work with our police officers. If you see something, say something. End the silence - stop the violence."

    Baraka said he feels the city's fight against violence needs to include, but go beyond, police strategy, community engagement, and peace-rallying events. The largest piece of the crime-fighting puzzle, he said, is to change the city's culture.

    "We have to combat this gangster culture that has invaded our cities," Baraka said.

    "It's in the language, it's in the music...we have 10,000 people showing up to a (concert) to listen to songs about doing drugs and killing people...it's the culture that's got to change."

    Though he agrees, Fisher said the challenge of changing an entire culture is a massive one that will likely take a lot of time and a myriad of different strategies to achieve - if it is achieved at all. In the meanwhile, he said, events like peace rallies should not be skipped.

    Changing the culture "is a formidable challenge," he said. "But, we can't stop doing these other things that may not be as expansive (but are a part of it)...It's not something on its own that can make the problem go away...but it is (a way to) take action."

    Jessica Mazzola may be reached at jmazzola@njadvancemedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @JessMazzola. Find NJ.com on Facebook.


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    Share your favorite photos from this Labor Day weekend, and we'll feature them on NJ.com.

    The final days of summer are here and we're thinking about how we're going to cap the season this holiday weekend. We're guessing you are too.

    We also have a hunch that whatever you do this Labor Day weekend you're going to produce some great photos - and we want to see them.


    RELATED: Earth Day 2015: Photos of N.J.'s most unspoiled places


    Hope to catch one more wave? Making that special burger? Gonna GoPro that badminton game? Or perhaps you want to immortalize your summer tan with a selfie. As you're having fun at the shore, a lake, river, pool, park or in the backyard, you're going to take some pics. Help us finish the New Jersey summer photo album with the last long weekend of the summer by sending your photos.

    You can post your Labor Day weekend pictures in comments here or tweet them to @njdotcom with the #LaborDayNJ hashtag. We'll collect the best and show them here on NJ.com.

    Let's give summer 2015 the send-off it deserves.

    Adya Beasley may be reached at abeasley@njadvancemedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @adyabeasley. Find NJ.com on Facebook.

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    Corey Fallen is pursuing a federal lawsuit against New Jersey and Newark officials, claiming he was falsely arrested and unlawfully imprisoned for nearly six months in connection with the stabbing death of Denise Ramsey

    NEWARK -- As his wife was giving birth to their son in Atlanta, Georgia on April 7, 2013, Corey Fallen was hundreds of miles away in a cell at the Essex County Correctional Facility.

    After being arrested in Georgia and sent to New Jersey, Fallen said he spent nearly six months in custody on false allegations of being involved in the murder of a "go-go" dancer in East Orange.

    When detectives ultimately returned to Atlanta, they confirmed what Fallen claims to have told them all along - he wasn't in New Jersey when the dancer went missing. In fact, Fallen has said he never visited the Garden State before being brought here as a murder suspect.

    Soon after his son was born, Fallen was released from custody and an Essex County grand jury later declined to bring charges against him.

    But Fallen said not being there for his son's birth has left him with a "missing spot in my heart."

    "I'm the father. I feel like I should be there for my child being born," Fallen said. "That's very important. It should be important to any man, any human being having a child coming into this world."

    Now the 34-year-old Fallen is pursuing a federal lawsuit against New Jersey and Newark officials, claiming he was falsely arrested and unlawfully imprisoned in connection with the stabbing death of Denise Ramsey.

    While witnesses had identified Fallen as being with Ramsey when she was last seen alive in December 2011, his DNA was not found on Ramsey's body and detectives failed to reasonably investigate Fallen's whereabouts around the time of Ramsey's disappearance before obtaining a warrant for his arrest, according to the lawsuit.

    "This has been overwhelming for me," said Fallen, who has another son from a previous relationship and a daughter with his wife.

    Fallen's attorney, Tracey Hinson, said in a statement that detectives could have easily confirmed his innocence when they first traveled to Atlanta to obtain his DNA sample before he was arrested.

    "The investigation conducted six months later which revealed Corey's innocence could have and should have been conducted from the outset before they ripped this poor man away from his family and caused him to miss the birth of his child," Hinson said.

    The defendants named in the lawsuit include Newark Detective Joseph Hadley, Jr. and State Police Detective Thomas McEnroe, both of whom participated in the murder investigation.

    Hadley and McEnroe have disputed Fallen's version of events, including that he told them other people had information about his whereabouts at the time of Ramsey's disappearance.

    Brian LoveBrian Love, 42, of Riverdale, Georgia, is scheduled to go on trial next month on murder and weapons charges in the stabbing death of Denise Ramsey, who was found on Jan. 25, 2012 in East Orange. 

    The lawsuit was initially filed in state court in Georgia in September 2014 and ultimately transferred this year to federal court in New Jersey. An amended complaint was filed on July 22, 2015. Fallen's wife, Shantell Fallen, is also named as a plaintiff.

    State and city officials last week filed motions to dismiss parts of the lawsuit on various legal grounds.

    Lee Moore, a spokesman for the New Jersey Attorney General's Office, said state officials declined to comment on the lawsuit.

    Another Georgia resident, Brian Love, is scheduled to go on trial next month on charges of killing Ramsey. His co-defendant, Johnny Jones III, remains at large.

    Investigation begins

    The investigation into Ramsey's death began on Jan. 25, 2012, when the body of the 33-year-old woman was found under a mattress in an East Orange lot, according to affidavits filed by the detectives in response to the lawsuit. Ramsey had been reported missing by her sister, the affidavits state.

    Investigators learned Ramsey had been employed as a "go-go" dancer at the Doll House in Irvington, and that she last worked there on the night of Dec. 2, 2011 and the early morning hours of Dec. 3, according to the lawsuit.

    Eyewitnesses reported seeing two male suspects at the club who gave Ramsey three one-hundred-dollar bills and asked her for change in the form of singles, according to McEnroe's affidavit. The witnesses said the men became angry when they only received change for one hundred-dollar bill, and began to threaten Ramsey and others at the club, the affidavit states.


    MORE: Newark man is charged in slaying outside Irvington gentlemen's club

    The witnesses recalled one of the suspects saying, "if we don't get the money, then we gonna go outside, pop the trunk and kill everybody in here," the affidavit states. The witnesses also said one of the men entered the disc jockey's booth and announced they had "beaten a murder rap" in Atlanta and demanded their money back, the affidavit states.

    Ramsey was last seen leaving the Doll House that evening and getting into a vehicle with the male suspects, according to witnesses, the affidavit states.

    Based on the witness accounts, McEnroe said he contacted local law enforcement in Georgia to determine whether anyone had recently "beaten a murder rap," the affidavit states. Law enforcement in Georgia sent over six photos, including one of Fallen, the affidavit states.

    The lawsuit claims the detectives learned that information about Fallen "by performing a quick internet search for individuals who had beaten a murder rap in Atlanta, Georgia."

    According to the lawsuit, Fallen was falsely accused of murder in September 2007 and he was acquitted of those charges after a key witness explained his identification of Fallen "was entirely faulty and not based on any personal knowledge."

    Witness IDs and DNA

    After placing Fallen's photo in a photo array of potential suspects, a witness identified him as one of the men with Ramsey at the club, court documents state. At least one other witness also identified Fallen as a suspect, court documents state.

    Johnny Jones III also was identified as a suspect, court documents state.

    In September 2012, McEnroe and Hadley traveled to Atlanta to obtain search warrants for DNA samples from Fallen and Jones, court documents state.

    When the detectives visited his home to collect the DNA sample, Fallen said on Wednesday that his whole family was "freaked out."

    "I was just freaked out," Fallen said. "I didn't know what was going on."

    Fallen told the detectives he had never been to New Jersey and explained that his co-workers and family members could confirm he was in Georgia at the time of Ramsey's disappearance, the lawsuit states.


    RELATED: After winning verdict for false homicide arrest, N.J. man spared prison time in drug case

    When the DNA samples were later tested, Fallen's DNA did not match any DNA evidence recovered on Ramsey's body or any other DNA evidence recovered during the investigation, according to the lawsuit.

    Jones's DNA, however, was linked to DNA found in a sweatshirt that was wrapped around Ramsey's body and DNA found under Ramsey's fingernails, the lawsuit states.

    At a court hearing on Tuesday for Brian Love, the other alleged killer, Essex County Assistant Prosecutor Naazneen Khan indicated that his DNA was found under Ramsey's fingernails.

    In their affidavits, Hadley and McEnroe said that, during the September 2012 visit, Fallen told them he had never been to New Jersey, but the detectives didn't recall him saying anything about his mother, wife or employer having information about his whereabouts on the night in question.

    A trip to Jersey and back home

    Fallen was ultimately arrested in Georgia in October 2012 on a charge of conspiracy to commit murder, and he was transported on Nov. 28, 2012 to the Essex County Correctional Facility, the lawsuit states. His arrest was based on the witness identifications, court documents state. 

    His wife was forced to get a second job to pay bills, and she would break down in tears when the couple spoke by phone, Fallen said on Wednesday.

    "When they arrested me, they took me away from my family," Fallen said. "I was scared. I was worried."

    essex county jail.jpgCorey Fallen spent several months in custody at the Essex County Correctional Facility, pictured above, in connection with Denise Ramsey's killing before he was released in April 2013. An Essex County grand jury later decided to not indict Fallen. 

    In February 2013, Fallen's attorney provided prosecutors with affidavits from his co-workers to show he was in Georgia at the time of Ramsey's disappearance, according to the lawsuit.

    After law enforcement officials did not further investigate Fallen's lack of a connection to the murder, he wrote a letter in April 2013 to a Superior Court judge, begging for his help, the lawsuit states.

    When the judge demanded a further investigation, the detectives returned to Atlanta in April 2013 and collected time sheets and reviewed surveillance footage, the lawsuit states.

    During that visit, Hadley and McEnroe said in their affidavits that they were able to corroborate the records provided to law enforcement and confirm that Fallen was not in New Jersey on the night when Ramsey went missing.

    But the detectives said in their affidavits that, before April 2013, they were not aware that Fallen was repeatedly declaring his innocence or that he had any evidence to corroborate his whereabouts on the night of Ramsey's disappearance.

    Fallen was released on his own recognizance on April 20, 2013, and flew home to Georgia later that day.

    Essex County prosecutors presented Fallen's case to a grand jury, but the jurors decided on May 17, 2013 to not indict him in Ramsey's death. About a year later, another grand jury indicted Brian Love and Johnny Jones III in the killing.

    Fallen said he has no plans of returning to New Jersey again.

    "I'm terrified to go to New Jersey again," Fallen said. "I don't want to go back to New Jersey no more."

    Bill Wichert may be reached at bwichert@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @BillWichertNJ. Find NJ.com on Facebook.

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    Authorities say they are continuing to investigate the incident.

    NEWARK -- Authorities are investigating a pedestrian strike that claimed the life of a 60-year-old Newark resident.

    Sammy Sanders was struck by a black Nissan Rogue in the 600 block of Frelinghuysen Avenue at about 11:28 p.m. Wednesday, Acting Essex County Prosecutor Carolyn A. Murray and Newark Police Director Eugene Venable announced in a release Thursday.

    Sanders was pronounced dead at University Hospital at 11:54 p.m., they said.

    The car's 27-year-old driver remained at the scene of the accident, authorities said. An investigation is ongoing, officials said.

    As of Thursday morning, no charges had been filed in connection with the incident.

    Jessica Mazzola may be reached at jmazzola@njadvancemedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @JessMazzola. Find NJ.com on Facebook.

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    The boy was returned to school after being found by a passerby, authorities say.

    School Bus.jpegBoy wandered away from school Wednesday, authorities said. (File photo)
     

    BLOOMFIELD -- A New Jersey kindergartener's first day of school included an unintended visit to a Friendly's restaurant when police say he wandered off of the school's campus during recess.

    According to Bloomfield police, the 5-year-old Brookdale School student was outside for recess at 11:30 a.m. Wednesday. The boy apparently wandered away from the school, and was seen wandering on Broad Street by a "concerned Samaritan" who took the child to the nearby Friendly's, Sgt. Anthony Servedio said Thursday.

    The restaurant's manager called police at 11:56 a.m., Servedio said. The exact time he left school, and amount of time he was wandering, remain unclear, police said.

    After authorities contacted the school, a secretary and the principal went to the restaurant, and took the child back to school, police said.

    Bloomfield's superintendent did not respond to an emailed request for comment on the incident Thursday morning.

    According to a News 12 report, a youth aide was watching the kids outside during recess.

    Police said they are still investigating the incident, but that it is unlikely that charges will be filed.

    Jessica Mazzola may be reached at jmazzola@njadvancemedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @JessMazzola. Find NJ.com on Facebook.

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    The new superintendent visited Barringer High School Thursday to tout a number of improvements over substandard conditions exposed last year

    NEWARK - Striking a triumphant tone, Superintendent of Schools Christopher Cerf and other district leaders on Thursday declared the first school day of the year a success.

    The remarks came at Barringer High School, which became something of a ground zero for the issues facing the school system last fall after a student video raised concerns about teacher vacancies, overcrowding and even a lack of sufficient desks in many classrooms.

    "At this time last year, Barringer needed some help," Cerf said. "We need to acknowledge both our strengths and our problems, and we had some problems here in the past."

    On Thursday, however, officials said that teacher vacancies at the school had been reduced to just one - thanks in part to a decision to return hundreds of teachers without assignment to regular duty - and that employees had systematically ensured that classrooms were cleaned and sufficiently equipped for the returning students.

    School Business Administrator Valerie Wilson said that the work at Barringer, one of the city's oldest schools, was small in comparison to that done district-wide. She touted more than 800 projects in all, including roof and brick replacements at Arts High School, Abington Avenue Elementary School and Ann Street Elementary School.

    "We have led a very successful process this year," she said.


    PLUS: Latest gift to Newark schools marks beginning of end for $100M Facebook fund

    Cerf also said the district had gone to great lengths to mitigate issues that dominated conversation on the first day of school last year, when parents and students alike reported confusion about assignments, busing and other changes due to the newly introduced "One Newark" school reorganization plan.

    In addition to adjustments at the district's "Family Support Center", officials said they bussed children to school from a network of 8 transportation hubs and assigned additional staff to help parents and children navigate their way to the right school and classroom.

    Municipal Council President Mildred Crump, however, said constituents still reported being less than totally satisfied with the new system.

    "As far as I'm concerned, the jury is still out," she said. "I still receive a number of calls from parents saying, you know, 'help'."

    In spite of any ongoing issues, however, she said she there were plenty of reasons to believe Cerf, who took over as superintendent in early July despite the objections of many city and school officials, might be able to win over more Newarkers than his predecessor, Cami Anderson.

    "I haven't been the best friend to him, but he's doing some new kinds of things," she said. "The previous superintendent, as we well know, disengaged herself from the public meetings at the Board of Education, and refused to come to some of the meetings requested by the council. At least Superintendent Cerf is not afraid to come before us, so that's a plus."

    Cerf, who led a tour of Barringer after taking a handful of questions from reporters, said he hoped others would see the changes he felt were taking hold across the city.

    "I realize that we are turning the page. We are looking forward into a bright future,' he said.

    Dan Ivers may be reached at divers@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter at @DanIversNJ. Find NJ.com on Facebook.

     
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    Officials provide new details of the Newark police pursuit that ended in the death of an 18-year-old Newark man.

    NEWARK -- Following the Tuesday city police pursuit that left an 18-year-old Newark resident dead, authorities have declined to name the officer at the wheel of the Newark police vehicle that struck him. 

    In a reply to questions by NJ Advance Media, Essex County Prosecutor's Office spokeswoman Kathy Carter said the officer is a 22-year police veteran. But the department will not release the officer's name due to concerns for his safety, Carter said. 

    It was not immediately made clear whether the officer remains on active duty.


    RELATED: Authorities identify teen killed following Newark police pursuit

    On Wednesday, Tyree Crawford, 18, was identified by officials as the victim in the crash. Crawford was a passenger in a silver Jaguar sedan reported stolen during an early-morning carjacking in the city's Vailsburg section, authorities said.

    After spotting the car, Newark police pursued the vehicle through the South Ward, authorities said. The chase turned deadly when Crawford was struck by a police vehicle after he and five others bailed out of the car near the intersection of Demarest Street and Hawthorne Avenue, authorities said.

    Following a subsequent standoff with police, all five were taken into custody. Crawford later died at the scene of the crash, officials said. His role in the alleged theft of the car, and the felonies police say the car may be connected to, was not immediately made clear.

    On Wednesday, Essex County Prosecutor Carolyn Murray announced charges against the five juvenile suspects, including receiving stolen property, resisting arrest and possession of two handguns authorities said were found inside the stolen vehicle.

    Few other details about the pursuit have been disclosed. Asked about the circumstances of the crash, officials told NJ Advance Media that the allegedly stolen vehicle was being pursued east on Hawthorne Avenue by two police cruisers just prior to the crash.

    After jumping from the allegedly stolen car, Crawford was struck by the front end of a police vehicle, they said.

    Citing an ongoing investigation by the Essex County Prosecutor's Office Professional Standards Bureau, authorities declined to provide details of the police cruiser's speed at the time it struck Crawford, or say exactly where he was at the moment of impact.

    Officials did not say when the investigation would be completed, or if the findings would be disclosed. Investigations by the Essex County Professional Standards Bureau are considered internal investigations, and may be exempt from public disclosure.

    Including the pursuit that ended in Tyree Crawford's death, the Essex County Prosecutor's Office has initiated three investigations of police pursuits involving Newark police officers so far this year.

    On Aug. 27, a woman walking her dog near Branch Brook Park was struck by a driver pursued by police on suspicion of speeding. Two people sustained minor injuries Wednesday after an alleged stolen vehicle pursued by police struck their car

    All three recent pursuits are under investigation, officials said.

    Vernal Coleman can be reached at vcoleman@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter at @vernalcoleman. Find NJ.com on Facebook.


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