Taj Mahal carjacking and slaying suspect a Bloods gang member; authorities credit public tips for arrest - pressofAtlanticCity.com: Breaking News Alerts

Taj Mahal carjacking and slaying suspect a Bloods gang member; authorities credit public tips for arrest - pressofAtlanticCity.com: Breaking News Alerts

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Taj Mahal carjacking and slaying suspect a Bloods gang member; authorities credit public tips for arrest

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Posted: Wednesday, September 21, 2011 9:30 pm | Updated: 2:37 pm, Thu Oct 27, 2011.

MAYS LANDING — An alleged Bloods gang member accused in Sunday’s deadly carjacking at an Atlantic City casino was in court Wednesday, a day after he was arrested in Camden.

Breaking news: Second suspect arrested

Phillip Byrd, 20, is one of three Camden men accused of forcing a Middlesex County couple to drive at gunpoint from the Taj Mahal Casino Resort parking garage to an alley off the 500 block of Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard shortly before 8 a.m. Sunday.

Eric Darden, 20, and Raheem Simmons, 18, remain fugitives.

Byrd is being held on $1 million cash bail on charges of murder, felony murder, carjacking, robbery, theft and weapons offenses.

Police arrested Byrd sometime before 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, less than two hours after a news conference during which Atlantic County Prosecutor Ted Housel announced murder warrants had been issued for the three men.

A stolen car linked to them also was recovered Tuesday, in a separate part of Camden.

Housel would not give detail the two Camden locations. The car had been stolen from Catherine McClure in Haddonfield, the complaint states.

The prosecutor said investigators were helped by tips from the public.

“The public stepped up on this one from all over,” House said, saying the calls “made all the difference in the world.”

A .357-caliber revolver authorities said was seized from Byrd is not believed to be the gun used in the attack in which Sunil Rattu, 28, of Old Bridge, was killed, and Radha Ghetia,  24, of Parlin, was wounded.

Housel has not said the type of gun used in the attack, but a flier released to law enforcement says it has been “consistently described” as a TEC-9, a high capacity semiautomatic 9mm assault pistol.

The three suspects are believed to be members of the Fruit Town Brim Bloods, the flier states. The gang has been in the news for several criminal cases in the state, including threatening the lives of Camden police officers.

Simmons — who also goes by Nino — has FTB tattooed on his left hand, the flier states. Those initials are used to identify the Fruit Town Brims, past news releases about the gang sent from the U.S. Attorney’s Office indicated.

Housel did not comment on the gang angle.

Byrd strode into the courtroom Wednesday with his head up and appeared unmoved as Chief Assistant Prosecutor John Maher read the numerous charges against him, including murder and felony murder.

He mumbled, “Yes,” when Superior Court Judge Bernard DeLury asked him if he understood the charges. When DeLury asked him to speak up, Byrd replied, “yeeeees” again, drawing out the vowel sound.

Despite earlier in the day filling out a form for a public defender, Byrd told DeLury he would be hiring his own attorney.

Byrd already has a public defender in Camden County, where he has a court date Oct. 24, stemming from a Nov. 27, arrest when he was found in possession of a sawed-off shotgun, according to those charges. While on the 100 block of Haddon Avenue in Camden, Byrd was approached when it looked like he had a weapon in his waistband, and the gun was found, those charges state. He was indicted in March.

Whether that trial would go forward was not immediately clear. Superior Court Judge Frederick Schuck’s list has that as a date just to make sure the case stays on schedule, and still has an outstanding motion to suppress evidence. The court had not yet been notified of Byrd’s new charges.

Byrd also served 30 days in jail last year, records show, for an attempt to purposely cause bodily injury. A separate harassment charge was dismissed.

Darden, meanwhile, is due in Camden County Superior Court next week for a pretrial conference on a weapon charge there, also involving a sawed-off shotgun. This stems from a motor-vehicle stop Nov. 20, in which there were three people in the car — and the weapon, the charges claim. He was indicted in April, and was to appear before Superior Court Judge Samuel Natal next Wednesday.

A call left with his private attorney in that case was not immediately returned.

Simmons does not appear to have a prior adult record, but just turned 18 in July. Juvenile records are not public record and could not be confirmed.

Simmons and Darden are considered armed and dangerous, Housel has stressed.

Contact Lynda Cohen:

609-272-7257

LCohen@pressofac.com

© 2014 pressofAtlanticCity.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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