The two people killed at a mass shooting during a party at a New Jersey home late on Saturday night have been identified by authorities.
Asia Hester, 25, and Kevin Elliott, 30, were shot and killed in what witnesses are saying was a gang-related ‘turf war’ that erupted during a house party that was held in a South Jersey suburb about an hour outside of Philadelphia.
Twelve people were wounded in the shooting. No arrests have been made.
Hester’s sister, Crystal, told the New York Post on Sunday that Asia was a ‘hardworking’ health care professional who became an A student after immigrating to the United States from her native Jamaica.
‘I talked to her yesterday before she went [to the party],’ Crystal Hester told the Post.
Asia Hester (left), 25, and Kevin Elliott (right), 30, were shot and killed in what witnesses are calling a gang-related ‘turf war’ that erupted during a house party that was held late Saturday in a South Jersey suburb about an hour outside of Philadelphia
The shooting took place late on Saturday night at a home in Fairfield Township, New Jersey. Investigators are seen above at the home on Sunday
Hester (left) was remembered as a ‘hardworking’ health care professional who immigrated to the United States from her native Jamaica. Elliott (right) ‘was a good kid who’d made his peace with life and had trouble with nobody,’ according to a friend
‘She didn’t deserve this.’
An unidentified male relative of Asia’s told the Post: ‘She was a hardworking person. She was a good person, very respectable.’
‘It’s just a tragic situation. Something’s got to be done.’
According to her social media, Asia worked at Jefferson Health, a southern New Jersey-based system of hospitals and clinics.
She graduated from Rowan College in southern New Jersey.
Laquanta Davis, 26, a childhood friend, said Hester was not known to be a frequent partier and that she ‘didn’t get out much.’
‘She wasn’t the type who went out to parties, so that took me by surprise,’ Davis said.
‘Who would have ever thought it would turn out this way for her. She was so sweet, so sweet and loving. It hurts, it really does.’
‘She was an A student. She was so smart, beautiful, nice,’ Davis said.
She added: ‘Asia was very kind. She would give you the clothes off her back. She didn’t deserve what happened to her.’
Elliott’s background is unclear. A friend of Elliott’s told the Post that his death was ‘tragic.’
‘He was a good kid who’d made his peace with life and had trouble with nobody,’ the friend said.
‘He showed up to a party to celebrate a happy occasion, and ended up dead. I can’t make sense of it.’
A witness, 44-year-old Sunshine Carter, said there were at least 30 gunshots.
‘I was sitting on a chair talking to my daughter and a friend. We were laughing. Next thing I knew, I hear shots fired, like 20 shots,’ Carter told the Post.
Laquanta Davis, 26, a childhood friend, said Hester (pictured) was not known to be a frequent partier and that she ‘didn’t get out much.’
According to her social media, Asia worked at Jefferson Health, a southern New Jersey-based system of hospitals and clinics. She graduated from Rowan College in southern New Jersey
‘Asia was very kind,’ a friend said. ‘She would give you the clothes off her back.’
‘Then it stopped, then 10, 15 more.
‘I didn’t know if they had to reload. I didn’t know if it was two shooters, one shooter.
‘I was running for my dear life.’
‘A girl ran in front of me, got shot. It could have been me. My friend was trying to help her.’
One of the women who attended the party said that the shooting was gang-related.
‘It’s South Side young boys vs. North Side young boys,’ said the guest.
‘This has been going on since the ’60s, and now they’re getting crazier with it.
‘They’re bringing guns.’
The woman added: ‘Usually, when they do that, they let off a couple [rounds], and that’s it.
‘But last night, they just kept going. People were running, falling. People were dying.
Crime scene tape was set up by investigators in Fairfield Township, New Jersey on Sunday
The shooting took place during what witnesses described as a 1990s-themed birthday party
Witnesses told the New York Post that the shooting was in all likelihood a gang-related ‘turf war’
‘It went on for 5, 10 minutes, running from bullets.’
Carter told the Post that the homeowner is a ‘family-oriented woman’ who was throwing a 1990s-themed birthday party for her nephew.
Carter remembers the panic that set in as the gunshot rang out. She said she frantically tried to locate her children.
‘They’re grown, but they’re still my kids. I’m running around looking for them, I can’t find them. I can’t find my phone to call them,’ Carter said.
‘I’m being trampled on. All because we had a family barbecue. We were having a good day, a good time.
‘These idiots just come in and shoot innocent people, and for what? Why? Just crazy.
‘I didn’t see anybody arguing before. It was just out of the blue — pop, pop, pop, pop, pop — and we hauled a**.
‘We’ve never been through anything like this before. This is a family home,’ Carter said.
‘And to come when everyone’s having a good time and just start shooting? Come on now, you bastards.’
A resident who runs a local anti-violence organization said he was called out to assist families at the 90s-themed party.
John Fuqua, of Life Worth Living, said guests who attended the party were of all ages.
Photos show overturned pop-up party tents, tables and chairs, and debris throughout the home’s yard.
A long driveway was still filled with cars late Sunday morning.
Two cousins who live in the area of the shooting said they heard music from the party until after midnight, then a series of shots – at least 15 of them over a few minutes.
Investigators from the New Jersey State Police are seen above in Fairfield Township on Sunday
Witnesses said they heard between 30 and 35 gunshots during the shooting rampage
Joeron Pierce and James Pierce, who live in homes next to each other, said that there was chaos after that.
Partygoers ran through their yards and asked to come into their houses. They said cars ran into one other trying to speed away.
Fairfield Township Mayor Benjamin Byrd Sr, who was at the scene Sunday, said that New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy offered his support and help.
‘Nobody knows when someone’s going to come out of the woods with a gun,’ Byrd said. He did not have any details about the shooting.
Murphy called the shooting ‘horrific.’ He hit out at the shooter in a scathing statement.
He said: ‘Since late last night, the New Jersey State Police and county and local law enforcement in Cumberland County have been investigating the horrific mass shooting at a large house party in Fairfield Township that attracted hundreds of party-goers.
‘At this time, at least two people have lost their lives, among numerous other shooting victims, including several with injuries that are life-threatening.
‘We hold those who have died, and their families, in our prayers today, and we also pray for the recoveries of those injured. We are grateful for the swift response of law enforcement and stand with them as they continue their investigation.’
Murphy added: ‘Let there be no mistake: This despicable and cowardly act of gun violence only steels our commitment to ensuring New Jersey leads the nation in passing and enforcing strong and commonsense gun safety laws. No community should ever experience what occurred last night in Fairfield.’
WPVI-TV reported that the reverend of a nearby church heard the gunfire.
‘I just started hearing at first what I thought was fireworks, it was really gunshots, and I heard nine in rapid succession,’ said the Rev. Michael Keene of the Trinity AME Church.
Messages seeking additional information have been left with multiple organizations.
State police scheduled a press conference for Monday morning.
Pastor Phil Murphy, who lives across the street, said he initially mistook the gunshots for fireworks.
He told WPVI: ‘I just started hearing at first what I thought was fireworks, it was really gunshots, and I heard nine in rapid succession.
‘If you’re going to a party, why do you need to take a gun? If you’re there to have a good time why do you need a gun with you? That means you’re expecting trouble to me.’
Police were called to Cumberland County shortly before midnight Saturday
The number of fatalities is not clear; NBC reports at least one person has died. Footage take from the scene Sunday morning shows the aftermath of the party
Six people were taken to Cooper University Hospital in Camden, CNN reports
Footage take from the scene of shooting Sunday morning shows the aftermath of the party. Police say there were more than 100 partygoers at the house.
New Jersey state police tweeted: ‘On Sat., May 22, at 11:50 p.m., NJSP responded to a residence on E. Commerce St. in Fairfield Twp., Cumberland Co. for the report of a shooting with multiple victims.
‘Troopers are on scene investigating. There is no additional information at this time. Updates to follow.’
Neighbor Melissa Helmbrecht said: ‘It was hundreds of people, our neighbors, who were just getting together because it was the first really warm, nice night.
‘There were a lot of parties and get-togethers throughout the community, and this was probably the biggest.’
Police say there were more than 100 partygoers at the house during the incident