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Reports of Gang-Related Crime in Borough Cause Lock-Down at Princeton High School

Candace Braun

A string of crimes in the Borough that started last week and continued through the weekend may be connected to a Princeton High School student who has been the subject of threats from a Trenton-based gang. On Monday PHS was put on lock-down, with six Borough Police officers keeping watch around the school premises and removing two students from school for questioning on the matter.

"Apparently they were involved in an altercation in the last couple weeks," said Lt. Dennis McManimon of the Borough Police Department, who said that while he was unable to confirm that the gang was related to the nationally-known gang rivals, the Bloods and the Crips, some were "doing the hand signals and making the noises" associated with those two gangs, and "acting out in that fashion" during an incident Sunday night involving a group of teenagers.

The most recent report of a criminal act was reported to Borough Police on Tuesday. A 22-year-old male resident of the Borough, reportedly robbed and stabbed a week ago on John Street, was initially reluctant to report the incident for fear of reprisal, said police. The victim was approached by two individuals described as "black males," who allegedly asked him for money. When he told the men that he didn't have any he was pushed to the ground and slashed across his right calf by a knife or box cutter that the accused had hidden in his shirt sleeve. The two men then left the scene and have not been identified.

The gang-related incident in the Borough receiving the most attention occurred at approximately 8 p.m. on Sunday night, when Borough Police responded to a call from the area of Bayard Lane and Hodge Road, where a "large group of unruly youths" was said to have been travelling in a pack and harassing children out trick-or-treating. When approached by police, the group of approximately 50 youths were "verbally abusive and were flashing gang signs at the responding officers," said the police report. Police asked for assistance from both Township and University officers to help disperse the group.

Among the children who were harassed was an 11-year-old who was knocked down and had his bag of Halloween candy stolen on Paul Robeson Place. After the parent of the child pointed out the youth who had committed the crime, the 16-year-old Township resident was charged with robbery, resisting arrest, and juvenile delinquency.

Joan Mueller, a Hodge Road resident who was at home on Sunday to greet trick-or-treaters, first noticed something was wrong when at approximately 7 p.m. the children in the neighborhood abruptly stopped coming to her door. After hearing a series of screams and shouts, she went to the window to see several police cars surrounding a group of youths.

"It really looked very serious. I've never seen so many cop cars in one place," she said.

Later that same night, at 2:20 a.m., two Princeton residents fell victim to an assault on John Street where the men, 29 and 24, were approached by two men who directed gang-related slang at them, said a witness.

Adrian McPherson, 19, of Clay Street, and James Kornegay, 20, of Leigh Avenue, allegedly threatened the men with pit bulls. The threats escalated into a physical confrontation, and the 29-year-old victim was struck and knocked unconscious. The blow caused brain-related injuries and he was rushed to the University Medical Center at Princeton.

The victim remains in intensive care, where he's "in pretty serious condition right now," said Lt. McManimon, adding that police were told they would be unable to talk to the victim for at least a week.

Mr. McPherson was arrested on the scene and Mr. Kornegay fled, but was arrested on Monday.

On Saturday night at midnight, Borough Police stopped a vehicle where the two men inside were found to be in possession of heroin, marijuana, a loaded .45 caliber handgun, ski masks, cash, and a police scanner tuned to the Borough Police frequency. The driver was also found to be intoxicated.

After giving false identities, the accused, Michael Bess, 22, of Redding Circle, and Malcolm Glover, 24, of Red Oak Row, were charged with possession of a weapon, possession of heroin and marijuana with intent to distribute, possession of a stolen handgun, hindering arrest, and DWI.

The two were released on $25,000 bail.

A Student Death

The string of crimes related to the Trenton gang began with an incident at the end of September, when Jean Mario Israel, 19, a PHS student, was shot in Trenton and died shortly thereafter. According to Trenton police, he was said to be a member of the Bloods gang. Later reports said that Arturo "Yukon" McKnight, 21, a resident of Trenton and a Crips gang member, was arrested in connection with the murder.

A funeral for the Lytle Street resident was held on Friday, September 30, and was attended by Princeton faculty, students, and some youths who were reportedly dressed in gang-related clothing.

The lock-down at PHS was removed after school on Monday, said Lt. McManimon, who was unaware if the threatened student returned to school on Tuesday.

There have been no further reports of injury to Princeton residents, he said.

Any parent whose child was approached by the group of youths on Halloween is asked to contact Sgt. Nicholas Sutter at (609) 921-8108.

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