Law & Justice

Union County Prosecutor Announces Elizabeth Man Charged in June 25 Shooting Spree

Pictured left to right: Elizabeth Police Director James Cosgrove, Elizabeth Police Chief Patrick Shannon, Acting Prosecutor H. Parks, Acting Chief of Investigators John McCabe, Jr., and Police Officer-in-Charge Chris Debbie. Standing behind Parks is Sheriiff Joseph Cryan. Cosgrove remarked, "I have been at this job for 48 years, and I have never seen such an incident." Credits: Fran Sullivan

ELIZABETH, NJ - Calling the crime “an unprecedented, horrific event in Union County,” Acting Union County Prosecutor Grace H. Park announced at a press conference today that 22-year-old Elizabeth resident Todd West has been charged in connection with three homicides and one non-fatal shooting that occurred in Elizabeth on Thursday, June 25. Todd is also charged in a homicide that occurred May 18.

The shooting spree began at approximately 2:30 a.m. when 28-year-old Dennis Vega was shot at the intersection New Point Road and Seventh Street. Later that night, Jamil Payne was found lying in the middle of South Park Street. About an hour later, shots were fired in front of 320 Clark Street where Kelvin Nelson was shot multiple times. All three men were pronounced dead at the scene. Less than 10 minutes later, Elizabeth Police received reports of more gunfire at the intersection of Jackson Avenue and Julia Street. Richard Marte was suffering from severe wounds. He was transported to the hospital and is expected to recover. A .38 caliber, six-shot revolver was used in all of the June 25 shootings.

In addition, law enforcement has established that West was responsible for the May 18 murder of his 29-year-old cousin Michael Thompkins who was found shot to death in a second floor hallway of his apartment building on Parker Road.

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West knew Payne and Thompkins, but it is not known if he had any connection to the other victims.

After the shooting spree, West fled to Allentown, Pennsylvania, where he is currently being held for the murders of two people in Allentown and one in Easton. The Union County Prosecutor’s Office is working with the Pennsylvania authorities. No court date in Union County has been set, but bail stands at $5.5 million.

The motive is unclear, but Michael Henn, supervising assistant prosecutor for the Homicide Task Force, called the shootings “opportunistic, rather than random.” Acting Prosecutor Parks stated that the crimes were not gang or drug related.  

Acting Prosecutor Parks thanked the members of the Union County Prosecutor’s Office Homicide Task Force, the Elizabeth Police Department, The Union County Sheriff’s Office, the Union County Police Department, and members of law enforcement agencies in Pennsylvania, who worked around the clock to solve the case.

Anyone with information is urged to contact the Union Prosecutor's Office Homicide Task Force Detective Sgt. Jose Vendas at 908-358-3048, Detective Danika Ramos at 908-451-7739, or Detective Andrew Dellaquila at 908-274-5771.

These criminal charges are mere accusations. The defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty in a court of law.


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