'Person of Interest' Arrested in Shooting Death of Newark Police Officer
Second suspect remains at-large
The Essex County Prosecutor's Office has confirmed Friday night that they have arrested a "person of interest" in the shooting death of Newark police officer William C. Johnson, but that a second suspect is still at-large.
Officials say Rasul McNeil-Thomas, 19, of Newark, was arrested at his home on the 300 block of Leslie Street in the South Ward around 5:20 p.m. without incident, about half-a-mile from the location of the Lyons Avenue shooting.
Johnson, 45, a 16-year veteran of the Newark Police Department, was unarmed and off duty when he was killed in a drive-by shooting Thursday night while allegedly buying a slice of pizza at Texas Fried Chicken and Pizza on Lyons Avenue in the city's South Ward, according to officials. Johnson, a father of two daughters, was pronounced dead at 3:10 a.m. at University Hospital.
Two other victims, a 19-year-old female and a 21-year-old male, were injured during the incident. The man was listed in stable condition, while the woman was treated and released. City officials said the woman was carrying a toddler during the incident. The toddler was unharmed. The identities of the man and woman were not released.
McNeil-Thomas is facing a number of charges, including conspiracy to commit carjacking, unlawful possession of a handgun and possession of a handgun for an unlawful purpose.
The Essex County Prosecutor's Office said Friday that early evidence suggests McNeil-Thomas stole a vehicle at gunpoint and that "evidence related to the shooting" was found in the vehicle, which has been recovered by police. The car, only described as a "late-model" vehicle, allegedly was carjacked shortly before the shooting and was found abandoned shortly after the incident, according to Acting Essex County Prosecutor Carolyn Murray.
"This investigation has been done well and it has been done right," said Murray. She, Mayor Cory Booker and Acting Newark Police Department Director Samuel DeMaio credited police officers for working round the clock.
"They just don't want to let this investigation go until it comes to a close," said DeMaio.
Murray called the arrest of McNeil-Thomas, which came less than 24 hours after the shooting, "a major development" in the case and that authorities would move forward with the investigation "methodically, going where the evidence takes us."
When asked if the shooting was related to gang activity, Murray said she could not release details or elaborate at this time.
McNeil-Thomas currently is in Essex County Correctional Facility in lieu of $300,000 bail.
A vigil is planned for Johnson Tuesday night at 6 p.m. at the corner of Lyons Avenue and Clinton Place, according to a spokesman with the Newark Anti-Violence Coalition.