Montclair’s police chief told a room of concerned residents Tuesday night the only suspect in last week’s shootings at Canterbury Park died in a suicide.
“Rest assured there is no one else out there,” Chief David Sabagh told those gathered at a community meeting for the Fourth Ward, a section of Montclair rattled after authorities say Brandon Brown, 26, of Montclair, shot his girlfriend Shanae Howard, 24, of Orange, multiple times before shooting himself in a quiet neighborhood park on May 16.
Tuesday’s meeting was led by Fourth Ward Councilwoman Renee Baskerville, who sought to get the facts to residents and discuss issues of domestic violence, gun violence and mental illness.
"We meet tonight to gather facts and to make sense of seemingly senseless acts of violence," Baskerville said.
Chief Sabagh, who could not reveal many details since the investigation is still open, did answer a question on many people’s minds — whether the gun was obtained legally.
The chief confirmed the gun used by Brown and found in the park was stolen.
“It was not legally owned. It was stolen. It was in his possession,” Sabagh said.
A recent gun buy-back program held by Essex County yielded 1,700 guns, 700 alone from Montclair, the chief said.
“We like to get the guns off the street,” he said. “It’s in everyone's best interest.”
State Sen. Nia Gill (D-Essex) is a resident of the Fourth Ward where the recent gun violence occurred.
Gill said she is currently working to pass the strongest gun control laws in the country for New Jersey. She said she also advocates for funding domestic violence awareness programs.
“The pain of violence is the same if you are from the Fourth Ward, from Newtown or from Upper Montclair,” Gill said, sharing that she had recently met families of the victims of the December shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.
Gill said the community has an important role to play and laws alone cannot bring an end to gun violence.
“We have to be more loving in our interactions with random strangers,” she said.
Cynthia Walker of Montclair-based S.O.F.I.A., an advocacy group for victims of domestic violence, spoke at the meeting after leading a candlelight vigil in memory of Howard earlier that night.
Walker said her organization helps all victims of domestic violence, whether they are women, men or teens.
The group is working to educate children at an early age about domestic violence.
“Our focus is to break the violence cycle,” she said.
Walker said S.O.F.I.A. is also hoping to start a group of “well-meaning men to speak with these young men in the street who have no direction.”
Councilwoman Baskerville maintained that Montclair is a safe community, a point echoed by the police chief who said overall violent crime has been on a downward trend in the town in the past several years.
"Crime is down, but it is not gone," Sabagh said.