Police have arrested a man in the slaying of the off-duty Newark detective who was gunned down in a robbery outside a Paterson strip club earlier this week, according to a law enforcement source.
A source with direct knowledge of the arrest said the suspect was caught Wednesday morning. The Passaic County Prosecutor’s Office will hold a press conference at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday to release details, Prosecutor Camelia M. Valdes said, refusing to confirm any arrests.
Paterson police also would not release any details.
The arrest comes after police on Tuesday asked for the public’s help in identifying two “persons of interest” in the fatal shooting of Detective Michael Morgan Jr. on Monday.
Police released pictures of two men and a car they were seeking. One man had a broad forehead with short hair and was wearing a gray, hooded sweat shirt. The second man was wearing a blue baseball cap with white stripes or white lettering on the visor. He was wearing the cap sideways.
The images were enhanced from surveillance video and are featured on the Police Department’s Cease Fire Unit Facebook page. Police also released a photo of a car they are seeking, believed to be a 1985 blue Buick Regal.
Police also set up a tips line, 888-536-6223, stressing there was a $25,000 reward. On Tuesday, thePassaic County Sheriff’s Office added $5,000 from drug forfeiture funds to that amount, Sheriff Richard Berdnik said.
Police said Morgan and fellow Newark police officers had just celebrated a friend’s birthday when he walked out of the Sunrise Gentlemen’s Lounge, at 556 Straight St., about 3 a.m. with a dancer. Morgan and the dancer left the club around closing time and after nearly everyone in his group had already departed.
Morgan planned to walk the dancer to her car, a co-owner of the club said, but the robber approached the pair. The gunman demanded money and other valuables, then shot Morgan once in the torso before fleeing with money, law enforcement officials said. Seconds before he was shot, police believe, Morgan reached for a weapon. Police discovered Morgan’s off-duty weapon underneath his body, leading investigators to believe he was drawing the handgun when shot.
Morgan was taken to nearby St. Joseph’s Regional Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead shortly after his arrival.
The assailant is also suspected of having robbed a woman three blocks away shortly before the shooting.
Morgan was a graduate of Queen of Peace High School in North Arlington, where he was a football standout. He had just been promoted from the Newark Police Department’s narcotics and gang unit to the special investigations unit and was to start there on Monday.
He began his career at the department in 2005 and was known for making a lot of gun arrests.
Check back for more information on this developing story.
BY MARLENE NAANES
Staff Writers Erik Shilling and Richard Cowen contributed to this article.
Update …. Just in
PATERSON — The man accused of killing an off-duty Newark detective earlier this week outside a Paterson nightclub was arrested near Philadelphia this morning with his 19-year-old girlfriend, authorities said.
Both Jerome Wright, 24, of Paterson, and Nashali Gadson, of Newark, now face felony murder and armed robbery charges in connection with the Monday morning attack that killed Newark Detective Michael Morgan, said Passaic County Prosecutor Camelia Valdes.
The pair were arrested around 3 a.m. at a hotel near Philadelphia, according to Valdes, and Wright is being held in lieu of $1.5 million bail. No bail has been set for Gadson.
Both remain in custody in Philadelphia but are expected to be extradited to New Jersey.
If convicted, both could face up to 30 years in prison for Morgan’s murder.
Wright was identified as the man responsible for another robbery that took place near the nightclub less than a half hour before Morgan was shot and killed, authorities said.
Wright allegedly used a credit card stolen during the first robbery to make a purchase at a location in Newark’s downtown area Monday morning, where he was captured on a security camera, Valdes said. On Tuesday, that image was used to identify him as the suspect in the initial robbery.
Later on Tuesday, Valdes said, Paterson police received information identifying Wright as Morgan’s killer and were able to track him to the Philadelphia hotel, although police would not specify how Wright was located.
Gadson’s role in both the robberies and Morgan’s death is unclear, and the weapon used to kill Morgan has not yet been recovered, police said.
Paterson police Tuesday afternoon released surveillance video taken at a Newark Foot Locker of two males who were considered persons of interest in Morgan’s slaying. Valdes identified Wright as the man seen wearing a sideways baseball cap, but would not comment on what, if any, involvement the second man had in the crime.
Authorities also confirmed Morgan was trying to disarm Wright and defend himself when he was shot. Newark police Director Samuel DeMaio had earlier said Morgan tried to withdraw his weapon at the time of the shooting.
“He did not have his life taken from him. He gave it,” said William Fraher, chief of detective for the Paterson police department. “I commend him for doing something very counter to our survival instincts.”
Newark Mayor Cory Booker said Morgan died a hero, and referred to Wright and Gadson as “two-bit criminals who stole (Morgan’s) life from his family, his community and country.”
“This is heinous, this is outrageous,” Booker said. “This is the manifestation of evil.”
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