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Edward Lea / staff photographer  

Hammonton quarterback Ryan Barts runs to the outside against Jackson Memorial in the first half of Central Jersey Group IV football game at Hammonton on Nov. 22.

911 calls show chaos in minutes after shots at Pleasantville football game

PLEASANTVILLE — Calls to dispatchers in the moments after shots rang out at Pleasantville High School’s football game against Camden last Friday illustrate the terror that gripped attendees.

On the 911 calls, obtained by The Press of Atlantic City through an Open Public Records Act request to the Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office, attendees can be heard detailing the few facts they could ascertain as they fled for safety.

One can be heard calming another man near him, though it’s unclear whether it was a victim.

When the dispatcher asked whether the caller knew the shooter, he said he did not, “but we need help like right now.”

“Alright, they’re coming now, they’re coming now, bro. Relax,” the man says to someone nearby.

Shots rang out in the third quarter of the game, just before 8:30 p.m. The target, Ibn Abdullah, a 27-year-old Atlantic City man, was hit and underwent surgery for critical injuries. A 15-year-old was grazed, and was treated at AtlantiCare Regional Medical Center, City Campus. A 10-year-old boy, Micah Tennant, died Wednesday at Cooper University Hospital in Camden from injuries to his neck.

Six people, including Abdullah, have been charged in the melee.

The alleged shooter, Alvin Wyatt, 31, of Atlantic City, was charged with one count of murder and two counts of attempted murder, unlawful possession of a weapon and possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose. Abdullah was charged with first-degree unlawful possession of a handgun and certain persons not permitted to possess a handgun. Shahid Dixon, 27, Michael Mack, 27, and Tyrell Dorn, 28, all of Atlantic City, and Vance Golden, 26, of Pleasantville, were charged with unlawful possession of a weapon and certain persons not to possess a weapon. Dixon also was charged with eluding.

When the shots went off, spectators and players fanned out, running for the fenceline and the parking lots.

Some thought to call 911 even as they scrambled to safety.

One woman called out of concern for her grandson, a player.

“My grandson is stuck,” she said, “and they’re shooting at Pleasantville High School.”

The dispatcher responds: “OK, well, officers are there, and they’re handling the situation, OK?”

“Lord have mercy,” the caller said quietly to herself. “Lord have mercy.”

One caller, even in the frenzy of the immediate aftermath, knew there were victims.

“OK, do you know if anybody’s hurt?” the dispatcher asks after the caller reports the gunshots.

The man struggled to speak. Finally, he said, “I think two at least. ‘Cause as soon as they went off I ran.”

Another was in an all-out run as he reached a dispatcher. His breathing was heavy and his footfalls on the pavement were audible.

The dispatcher told him they would send emergency responders.

“Alright, hurry up,” the man said. “I don’t want nobody to get hurt.”

PHOTOS from Pleasantville vs. Camden at Philadelphia Eagles stadium

Impeachment inquiry crossroads: Keep going or time to vote?

WASHINGTON — They’ve heard enough. With stunning testimony largely complete, the House, the Senate and the president are swiftly moving on to the next steps in the historic impeachment inquiry of Donald J. Trump.

“Frankly, I want a trial,” Trump declared Friday, and it looks like he’s going to get it.

Democratic House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff’s staff and others are compiling the panel’s findings. By early December, the Judiciary Committee is expected to launch its own high-wire hearings to consider articles of impeachment and a formal recommendation of charges.

A vote by the full House could come by Christmas. A Senate trial would follow in 2020.

Congress’ impeachment inquiry, only the fourth in U.S. history, has stitched together what Democrats argue is a relatively simple narrative, of the president leveraging the office for personal political gain, despite Republicans’ assertions that it’s complex, contradictory and unsupported by firsthand testimony.

House Democrats may yet call additional witnesses first, notably John Bolton, Trump’s former national security adviser. But Senate Republicans are already looking ahead to their turn, the January trial that would follow House approval of impeachment charges.

Should they try to dispatch with such a trial in short order, which they may not have the votes to do, despite holding 53 seats in the 100-member Senate? Or should they stretch it out, disrupting the Democrats’ presidential primaries under the assumption that it helps more than hurts the GOP and Trump?

At this point it seems very unlikely the 45th president will be removed from office. And he knows it.

“The Republican Party has never been more unified,” Trump declared Friday, calling in to “Fox & Friends” to talk about his achievements for nearly an hour. The Democrats haven’t got anything to impeach him on, he claimed, and if the House proceeds, their work will come crashing down in the Senate.

He wants that trial, he said.

It all stems from Trump’s July 25 phone call with Ukraine’s newly elected president. In it, Trump asked Volodymyr Zelenskiy for “a favor,” which involved investigating Democrat Joe Biden and a theory — debunked by U.S. intelligence — that Ukraine, not Russia, interfered in America’s 2016 election. In return, Democrats say, it was made clear to Zelenskiy by others that he would get a coveted Oval Office visit. And at the same time, Trump was holding up $400 million in military aid the East European ally relies on to counter Russian aggression at its border.

For Democrats, it amounts to nothing short of a quid pro quo “bribery,” spelled out in the Constitution as grounds for impeachment. They say they don’t need Bolton or anyone else to further a case they contend was well established by the White House’s rough transcript of the phone call — the transcript Trump himself implores America to read.

“We Democrats are tired of a president who is willing to put his own personal interests above the Constitution,” said Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., a Judiciary Committee member. “I don’t think we should be waiting.”

Trump insists he did nothing wrong and Friday revived the Ukraine interference idea, which he relies on to push investigations of Biden’s son Hunter, who served on the board of a gas company in Ukraine. Trump’s former security aide Fiona Hill warned Republicans in Thursday’s hearing that it’s a “false narrative,” dangerous for the U.S. and playing into Russia’s hands.

Now Trump ally Lindsey Graham, a senator from South Carolina, has asked the State Department for documents on the Bidens and Burisma, the gas company.

The Judiciary Committee chairman and other senators met with White House Counsel Pat Cipollone as Republicans consider Trump’s rebuttal to whatever impeachment articles may arrive from the House.

Another GOP Sen. Ted Cruz said if the White House wants to call Hunter Biden as a witness or the anonymous government whistleblower who alerted Congress to concerns about the phone call, “I think they should be allowed to call them,” he said on “The Ben Shapiro Show.”

Despite Trump’s denials, Democrat Schiff says the testimony in the hearings has largely confirmed the accusations against the president.

“What have we learned through these depositions and through the testimony?” Schiff said as he gaveled the final session closed late Thursday. “So much of this is undisputed.”

Bolton hasn’t been questioned. Other testimony has him fuming at the White House over what he called the “drug deal” Trump’s team was “cooking up” over Ukraine.

Bolton said he didn’t want to have any part of it and left his post in September, not long after the whistleblower filed the complaint.

A former United Nations ambassador, Bolton declined a request to appear before Schiff’s committee, standing by the White House’s instructions not to comply with the probe. But he suddenly resurfaced Friday on Twitter.

He said the White House had blocked and “never returned access to my Twitter.”

A senior Trump official said the White House did no such thing and wouldn’t even have the means to do so.

There’s also Rudy Giuliani, the president’s lawyer, who witnesses put at the center of it all, fueling the theory of Ukraine’s role in election interference and enlisting diplomats like Ambassador Gordon Sondland to push the Ukrainians to announce the investigations.

Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said this week no decisions have been made on further hearings.

“As I said to the president, if you have any information that is exculpatory, please bring it forth, because it seems that the facts are uncontested as to what happened,” she said.

In the Senate, much of the next steps will depend on Trump, whose shifting views have forced GOP senators to readjust their own. They left the White House meeting without consensus but plan to meet again, according to a person familiar with the session.


Associated Press writer Kevin Freking contributed to this report.

Atlantic City casino industry reports double-digit profit increase in 3rd quarter

ATLANTIC CITY — The gaming industry reported a strong third quarter profit increase Friday, with the resort’s nine casinos posting a double-digit rise over last year.

Gross operating profits for the three-month period increased $26.5 million, or 12.5%, compared to the same period in 2018, according to data from the state Division of Gaming Enforcement.

The $239.4 million in gross operating profits — the widely accepted measure of industry profitability — is the strongest reporting period for Atlantic City casinos since the third quarter of 2017.

The third quarter results, which include the months of July, August and September, are the industry’s first opportunity to compare a nine-casino market following the simultaneous openings of Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City and Ocean Casino Resort in June 2018.

Net revenue — a figure that reflects casino gaming revenue after promotional allowances plus room, food and beverage, and other ancillary earnings — was also up for the quarter. The city’s nine casinos reported nearly $928.9 million in net revenue, an increase of 2.7% over 2018. It was the sixth consecutive quarter of net revenue growth in Atlantic City.

Casino Control Commission Chairman James T. Plousis said nongaming industry metrics, such as occupied room nights, third-party business sales, luxury tax and parking fees, were all up in summer 2019.

“Positive trends also continued with important tourism indicators,” Plousis said in a statement. “Nongaming amenities continue to create a competitive advantage, and visitors like the diverse dining, entertainment and leisure activities that Atlantic City has to offer.”

Rummy Pandit, executive director of the Lloyd D. Levenson Institute of Gaming, Hospitality and Tourism at Stockton University, said nongaming revenues for the quarter totaled $438.5 million, a 3.5% increase over last year. Pandit also noted that Atlantic City’s nongaming revenue for the quarter represented 47.2% of total revenue, an indication the industry is continuing a shift toward the “Las Vegas model,” where nongaming earnings account for nearly 65% of the market’s total revenue.

“Continued overall growth in gaming and nongaming revenues for the destination, along with increased traffic flow via the Pleasantville toll plaza (on the Atlantic City Expressway) is certainly a positive indicator,” Pandit said. Combined with the increase in gross operating profit, the third quarter report “clearly demonstrates that not only is the top line strong but the bottom line is showing greater operational efficiency and resilience.”

Ocean Casino will be in Atlantic City for a 'long time'

ATLANTIC CITY — At this time last year, Ocean Casino Resort was struggling financially and many industry watchers wondered whether it could survive the brutal winter months along the Jersey Shore, when visitation to the city’s gambling parlors drops off.

The two newest casino properties posted the largest increases in operating profits and net revenue in the third quarter. Hard Rock posted an operating profit of $24.4 million for the summer months and $128.4 million in net revenue. Ocean — a property that had only posted one profitable quarter since opening — reported $10.23 million in gross operating profit and $79.9 million in net revenue.

Mike Donovan, senior vice president and chief marketing officer for Ocean, said the property was “pleased with our performance in the third quarter.”

“We set a property record for profits, driven by a 27% increase in net revenue,” Donovan said. “Ocean has seen four consecutive months of double-digit growth, and we’re excited to carry that momentum into 2020.”

The third quarter of 2019 was the first reporting period this year in which the industry posted positive operating profits. Year-to-date, the industry is down 4.5% compared to 2018. Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa was the only pre-Hard Rock and Ocean property to report an increase, 2.3%, through the first nine months.

Net revenue is up 10.8% through three quarters this year, but all seven of the pre-Hard Rock and Ocean properties are down compared to the same period last year.

PHOTOS from the Battle of the Bras at Harrah's in Atlantic City

ecoDemonstrator caps off week of sustainable aviation at ACY

EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP — The Boeing ecoDemonstrator 777 flew from Frankfurt, Germany, to Atlantic City this week, just in time to cap off a conference about sustainability in aviation here.

The retrofitted 18-year-old plane, which is testing 50 new technologies in the real world, stopped at Atlantic City International Airport for the end of a multiple-day CLEEN II Conference on sustainable aviation technologies.

The Federal Aviation Administration conference was held at the National Aviation Research and Technology Park at the airport, attracting about 100 people from major aviation companies around the nation, organizers said.

“CLEEN II focuses on ... technologies to reduce emissions, energy use and noise,” said Atlantic County chief of staff Howard Kyle, who is also on the NARTP board of directors. “This is the aircraft that implements the technology.”

The Greater Atlantic City Chamber hosted the Boeing plane and ran tours of it for chamber members and CLEEN II participants Friday.

“It’s great because instead of doing things in a lab and simulating using it in an aircraft, it’s using it in an aircraft,” said Gary Nickerson, of Seattle, after the tour. Nickerson works on activation systems — or flight controls — for Collins Aerospace and was in town for the CLEEN II meeting, he said.

He, too, is working on making flying more sustainable.

“I work to try to reduce the size of components, to reduce the weight and free up space on an airplane,” Nickerson said.

Kyle said it’s the first time CLEEN II has been held here. Last year it was at NASA Langley in Virginia, he said.

The Continuous Lower Energy, Emissions and Noise (CLEEN) program is the FAA’s main environmental effort to develop new aircraft and engine technologies and advance sustainable jet fuels, according to the FAA.

“A lot of the companies that attended were unfamiliar with what the technical center did here, and the research park,” Kyle said. “Now we are in the consciousness of a lot of influential companies.”

The research park is looking to expand and bring in more aviation companies, having targeted the aviation sector as the region’s best bet for diversifying the economy.

The ecoDemonstrator has components made of lighter or recycled materials and can run on biofuels as well as standard aviation fuels, said Boeing Lead Engineer of Sustainable Technology Christin Datz.

Datz said Boeing is also testing ways to keep perishable cargo cold in flight, to avoid the 20% spoilage rate that is the current average.

“We have created a cold chain ... and sensors to check the condition (of the cargo),” she said.

The plane is also testing less toxic primers and fire suppression materials.

“Halon is good at suppressing a fire, but we are looking to replace it without the effects on ozone,” Datz said. “Last year, the (FAA’s William J. Hughes Technical) Center tested a promising fire agent.”

Boeing spokesman Paul McElroy said the company created its first ecoDemonstrator in 2012. At that time, it was “entirely environmentally focused,” he said.

As it continued each year, Boeing expanded its focus. Now, it’s also testing smart cabin technologies to automate inventory control and preparation for takeoff and landing within the cabin, among other things.

But environmental improvements remain a priority.

This year’s plane is also testing Smart Vortex Generator equipment, in collaboration with NASA, McElroy said. It allows the small fins on airplane wings, which are used to keep airflow efficient, to move up and down as needed in response to temperature changes.

It is warmer closer to the ground, where the fins are needed, and the cold at altitude causes them to change shape and fold into the wing, reducing drag.

“It’s a shape memory alloy,” McElroy said. “We can teach the metal to change shape with the temperature.”

Boeing has estimated that an airline with 100 jets can save 3 million gallons of fuel a year by using the special equipment.

GALLERY: ecoDemonstrator Boeing Tour