Security to be re-evaluated in wake of Trenton festival shooting

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Tahaij Wells - shooter in Trenton Art Festival Tahaij Wells - shooter in Trenton Art Festival
TRENTON -

It's been one week since nearly two dozen people were wounded in a shooting at the Trenton Art All Night festival, and some officials say security measures need to be reconsidered for the annual event.

Police believe a battle between rival gang members erupted amid the crowd of 1,000 people who were celebrating culture at the arts festival just before 3 a.m. last Sunday.

Patrons of Art All Night ran for cover as alleged rival gang members shot at one another at what had been a peaceful, vibrant festival for the last dozen years.

Investigators say shooter Tahaij Wells used an illegal extended-round magazine gun, and had served time in prison for a previous shooting murder. Wells exchanged fire with two other men inside the festival amid a crowd of innocent people.

Police shot Wells dead. The two other alleged shooters were arrested.

Officials say 15 innocent people were wounded by gunfire and 22 were injured in total.

A Facebook post warned of trouble 14 hours prior to the event, according to Trenton police.

Trenton's police director said four police officers and four sheriff's officers were assigned to the event as security, but that number went up as trouble escalated.

A total of 40 officers were on scene when the shooting began.

Police said fights started to break out in the parking lot outside the venue and eventually officers asked the festival be shut down.

The violence has rekindled a debate over New Jersey's already strict gun laws, but also a statewide conversation about violence on the capital city's streets.

There were no metal detectors at the event.

Trenton's incoming mayor, who takes office July 1, says that security measures at Art All Night need to be re-evaluated.

Councilwoman-elect Kathy McBride, of Trenton, says she is very concerned about the quality of life in Trenton. McBride's son Kenny was shot to death in 1993, and she founded Mothers Against Violence that year.

“I'm concerned about families fleeing the city so we need to really get some resources here,” she says. “We need to be involved in the streets of Trenton. It calls for everyone's involvement here.”

Others say new laws aren’t the answer.

“You can pass all the paper you want,” says Councilman George Muschal. “You're not going to stop the violence, ever. Put the criminals in jail and leave them in jail.”

Most elected officials, including Gov. Phil Murphy, say they still want Art All Night to return next year.

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