Middlesex County News

Amid a Bloody Summer, New Brunswick Asks How to Stop the Killings

New Brunswick residents and people from neighboring communities packed the second-floor Masonic temple to discuss how to quell violence in the area
Tormel Pittman greets the crowd, calling for people to take greater care of all young people in the neighborhood

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ — From the raised stage of the second-floor Masonic temple on Hale Street, Jose Negron turned his head toward the window. He looked at the very spot where his son was killed almost five years ago.

Joshua Negron was 24 when he was murdered on a late Monday night in November 2012, according to reports. He was shot on the corner of Hale Street and Remsen Avenue at a candle-light vigil for a teenager who was stabbed to death there just days earlier. Two weeks before, the surviving Negron said, a young woman was killed steps away.

“We don't think it'd ever happen to us, but it does,” Negron said last Thursday, Aug. 17, to roughly 100 people in the temple, above the Progressive Lodge, as electric fans hummed against the summer heat. “Every time since then, when I hear that someone got killed, it touches my heart like never before.”

Sign Up for E-News

Negron said he, too, could've picked up a gun and went after his son's killer. But instead, he earned his high school diploma, enrolled in Middlesex County College and began to train up-and-coming boxers. His success, he said, was retribution in its own right.

“If you got the opportunity to make a difference in somebody's life in the community and you not doing it,” the emotional father said, “you wasting time.”

Negron was one of many speakers to take the mic that night. They came to the Hale Street hall for an “emergency” community forum to begin healing and addressing the violence that has tarnished New Brunswick and nearby towns, like Franklin Township, not just this summer, but for years. They hoped to forge a new path forward.

Tormel Pittman, a neighborhood activist, led the gathering alongside City Council President Glen Fleming. Anyone who's been to a few council meetings has likely seen the two men spar, sometimes loudly and often passionately, about local issues, especially those affecting the African-American community. But the two appeared united last week, bonded by a common struggle that they had resolved to overcome.

Jose Negron speaks about the pain he felt after his son's murder

As New Brunswick's downtown and student neighborhoods flourish, other areas still regularly reckon with tragedy. When bullets fly and blood sheds, some speakers said, it can feel like residents of violence-stricken areas are on their own.

This summer, for instance, saw several people gunned down and killed in the Hub City.

A 31-year-old was slayed in his car last Friday, a day after the forum, on Fulton Street. A 51-year-old woman was injured in a shooting the next day, though she's expected to live.

Before that, in Somerset, an 18-year-old shot a woman of the same age, and she died less than an hour later, police alleged. Earlier this month, three men with handguns committed a carjacking, and a group of people beat two men on Hamilton Street, cops said. In July, Desiree Alvarado, 38, was murdered on 7th Street, according to police.

Ashton Burrell said the community must begin to heal

Before last week's meeting began, Alvarado's cousin stood outside the lodge. She fought tears while discussing her loved one's murder with a reporter. But she also spoke optimistically about a planned block party to bring neighbors together.

That sort of attitude dominated much of the evening. Grieving parents spoke of their slain children, but then they pivoted to possible solutions. Local business, civic and religious leaders mourned the dead and then offered meeting spaces, free services and jobs to New Brunswick's young people.

“Nobody knows how to stop violence and crime … We all had something better to do tonight, but we came here, obviously, because we don't got the answers,” Pittman, the organizer, said at one point. “We're here because we're trying to make a difference.”

Each person who promised to try to make that difference in some concrete way was met with applause. Pittman himself brought two young men who were selling shirts and other items to the front of the room. He had given them their first job.

Pittman brought his two workers before the crowd, which applauded the young men

But the sort of violence endemic to New Brunswick requires an even greater effort, Pittman said.

The shootings and assaults are often carried out not just by an individual, but a person who's acting on behalf of a gang, he said. The deadly disputes might arise from drugs, turf or a long-lasting beef, he said.

He said he once got several young rivals to sit down at a local mosque. After they ditched their guns, they ate food and began to talk. By the summit's end, they'd realized that their disagreements were based more in rumor than fact.

Since then, none of those men has yet to shoot another, Pittman said.

Residents didn't need to look hard for a positive role model to local kids. Ashton Burrell, a young man from Highland Park, who chairs its Human Relations Commission, helped to lead the forum that night. A performer and former football player, he gripped the audience, urging parents and kids alike to take a stronger role in civic life and guiding young people.

“After a while, you start to get used to it,” he said of society's ills. “If we started to get used to the right things, we will get right.”

Lana Whitehead, a former basketball star and founder of the life-coaching service Sharpened Mindz, discusses how she can help the community

Redemption was also on display.

Pittman said he used to hustle on the streets. Even without a high school diploma, he has since turned his life around and become a well-known activist in New Brunswick.

Boris Franklin, meanwhile, said he did 11 years in prison, leaving his son behind. But he now works with a parole-to-college program, helping felons return to their neighborhoods. He's on the dean's list at Rutgers University. He speaks at colleges about his past violence—and how he came out on the other side.

“I came back to clean up a mess I helped create,” Franklin said. “And anyone who did violence here should do the same.”

New Brunswick City Council President Glen Fleming said it's time for the community to come together for the sake of its young people

Fleming, New Brunswick's council president, knows all too well how violence can harm a family. A teacher in another school district, he lost two students this year. His cousin was also killed on city streets.

But past tragedies don't prevent a better tomorrow, Fleming said. To that end, he announced plans for a march from Franklin and into New Brunswick, with rallies at each end, to call for an end to the killings. Organizers also plan to host regular forums going forward.

“We're going to storm the streets like this area has never seen,” Fleming said. “We have to put demands on people right now,” calling for everyday people to step up.

Tina Riley knows why that's so important. Her son Joell “Jozy” Burton, who lived in the Paul Robeson Village, was shot and killed in 2014. He was 17.

Last week, she tearfully echoed what she has said since his murder: “God give life, and let no man take it away.”

TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Be Interested In

Sign Up for E-News


East Brunswick: I Don't Wanna Close Up, I'm a Toys-R-Us Kid

March 16, 2018

EAST BRUNSWICK, NJ - East Brunswick used to be the home of Meyer's toy store, an almost idyllic wonderland of all sorts of Barbies, parts for swimming pools, and clanging model trains until it closed in 2002.  Kay-Bee toy store was a popular stop at the Brunswick Square Mall until 2009, with a salesperson often displaying the newest gadget outside its door, causing eager kids ...


Piscataway – Reinhard Rudolf Kiefer, 85, died Sunday March 11, 2018 at home. Born in ...
Read more
Piscataway, NJ – Manuela Cruz, 94, born July 17, 1923, passed away peacefully on March 8, ...
Read more

Celebrate National Ag Day at the Middlesex County EARTH Center

March 13, 2018

EARTH CENTER, NORTH BRUNSWICK, NJ - Consider this: just about everything we eat, wear and use comes from agriculture. That is why America’s farmers and their crops are celebrated each year on National Ag Day, which falls this year on March 20.

To honor this day, the Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Middlesex County has planned a new seminar entitled The State of Agriculture and ...

Darby Road to Host Fifth Annual St. Patrick's Day Festival

SCOTCH PLAINS, NJ -- Darby Road Public House (450 Park Ave., Scotch Plains) has announced the dates and times of its hugely popular St. Patrick’s Day Festival, which will be set up in the municipal parking lot.

The festival features Irish bands, Irish step dancers, bagpipers, great Irish fare and enough Guinness to go around! The event also will have a bounce house, ...

Piscataway Libraries Host Annual NJ Makers Day Program

PISCATAWAY, NJ – The Piscataway Public Libraries were once again hosts to dozens of “makers” for the 4th Annual NJ Makers Day celebration.

The Saturday events at the Kennedy and Westergard Libraries featured activities and demonstrations by members of the maker culture with a focus on STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, and math) initiatives.

Among other ...

NCAA Tournament: Heilmann and DelVecchio Both Secure All-American Honors; Suriano Becomes Rutgers' First-Ever Finalist

CLEVELAND, OH -The senior class of South Plainfield High School’s “Murderer’s Row”, the 2013 team that earned a group title, two individual state titles, and produced five state placewinners, knows a thing or two about making wrestling history. The 2018 NCAA wrestling tournament marks the last time two standouts from 2013 team, Troy Heilmann and Scott DelVecchio, will ...

Pre-Ticket Sale for Holy Savior Academy’s 4th Annual Spring Splendor Tricky Tray

Holy Savior Academy is hosting its Spring Splendor Tricky Tray Saturday, April 21, 2018 at the school.  Doors open at 6:00 p.m.

Tickets are limited and will be sold at Holy Savior Academy, 149 South Plainfield Avenue, South Plainfield on Wednesday, March 21, 2018 from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. (cash or checks)

BYOB and food- Admission $ 25 per ...

Upcoming Events


Wed, March 21, 2:00 PM

South Plainfield

Holy Savior Academy's 4th Annual Spring Splendor ...

Thu, March 22, 7:00 PM


The Basics of Starting a Business

Business & Finance

Fri, March 23, 8:00 PM

State Theatre New Jersey , New Brunswick

Motown the Musical

Arts & Entertainment

Sat, March 24, 8:00 PM

State Theatre New Jersey , New Brunswick

Motown the Musical

Arts & Entertainment

Sun, March 25, 8:00 AM

St. Francis Episcopal Church, Dunellen

Palm Sunday

Religions And Spirituality

New Jersey Hoops Player Isaiah Rogers Part of College Basketball History

March 17, 2018

CHARLOTTE, NC - You all saw what happened. You all witnessed history.

But did you know a former Jonathan Dayton basketball player, who helped lead the Bulldogs to an NJSIAA North Jersey, Section 2, Group 1 state title in 2012-13, is on the University of Maryland-Baltimore County men’s basketball roster?

Junior guard Isaiah Rogers, who served as UMBC’s team’s manager in ...

Coffee, Tea or Fleas?

Two ducks are on a flight to Miami.  The first duck says to the second, “you flying south for the winter?”  The second duck replies, “Oh wow, a talking emotional support duck!”


Pa rum pum.


There have been a lot of news stories lately about animals traveling on airplanes.  Some are humorous, like the woman who recently tried to bring ...