NEWARK, NJ — A 23-year-old Edison man has been convicted by an Essex County jury of first-degree attempted murder and weapons offenses after a case that arose in September 2016 where he was arrested in connection to an assault on a West Orange resident, according to Acting Essex County Prosecutor Theodore Stephens II.
John Searles was convicted on Thursday following a jury trial before the Honorable Verna Leath, Judge of the Superior Court.
On Sept. 22, 2016, West Orange police were dispatched to a home on Lowell Place with a report of a shooting in progress. Once on the scene, officers discovered a man bleeding and suffering from numerous abrasions but no gunshot wounds.
The victim informed detectives that he had arrived home from his daughter’s back-to-school night event and drove his vehicle into the attached garage of his home. As the victim approached the front door of his residence, a male with a ski mask appeared from his driveway, ran toward him and fired at him multiple times, according to police. Officers also said the victim ran at the suspect, tackled the suspect in the driveway of his residence, and the two fought.
During the altercation, the victim was able to grab a silver 9mm Ruger from the suspect and threw it into his rear yard. The gun was recovered as well as a bullet fragment and a 9mm live round, according to authorities.
Authorities said a second unknown male approached both parties and attempted to separate them; and after a short period of time, the suspect and the second unknown male fled in a vehicle.
According to the victim, the suspect made an apparent reference to a bounty on the victim during the attack, saying, “You have $20,000 on your head.”
Although the victim did not sustain a gunshot wound, the victim’s clothing was stained with blood and there was a bullet hole through his jacket near the pocket, according to responding officers. The incident was captured on a surveillance camera and Searles’ DNA was on the victim’s clothing.
Assistant Prosecutor Stephanie Faloyin, who tried the case, argued that Searles should be taken into custody immediately. Judge Leath rejected that argument and released Searles with an ankle bracket.
On Thursday, Assistant Prosecutor Faloyin announced that an Essex County jury found Searles guilty on all counts: first-degree attempted murder, second degree unlawful possession of a weapon, second degree possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose and fourth degree possession of a defaced firearm.
When he is sentenced on Aug. 12, Searles faces 20 years in New Jersey State Prison, according to the prosecutor’s office. The prosecutor’s office also noted that Searles has a prior drug conviction and was a convicted felon on probation at the time of the incident.