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Atlantic City teen shot dead Monday may not have been intended target

Cu’raan Samir Williams, 17, was fatally shot Monday in a home on Blaine Avenue in Atlantic City.

ATLANTIC CITY — Cu’raan Samir Williams was a fun-loving, kind-hearted teenager who had a lot of friends and wanted to be a mechanic.

But the 17-year-old was fatally shot Monday in a Blaine Avenue home, caught in the crossfire of an “ongoing family drama,” his mother, Samera D. Bishop, said Friday.

Bishop, a single mother who studies social work at Rutgers University in Camden, said she was in the process of bringing Cu’raan, who had been in foster care, to live with her and to help him get his life together.

“I just felt like him seeing how hard I’m working, it would make a difference and maybe he would pick up on that and do the same,” she said. “I told him, ‘Mommy’s got you.’ And I can’t even do that now.”

Court documents in the case show Cu’raan, who was found shot on the second-floor balcony of the home, may not have been the intended target.

“He wasn’t the target. It wasn’t for him,” Bishop said. “And I will not rest until I get some answers.”

Cu’raan’s foster brother was threatened by Shaquana Lewis, one of the two people who have been charged in the homicide, before the fatal shooting, according to an affidavit of probable cause.

Authorities have not released the name of the teen but have said the killing was in connection to an ongoing dispute between families.

Interviews conducted by the police found Cu’raan and his foster brother, J.H., were involved in a physical altercation the prior evening with J.H.’s ex-girlfriend, who was identified only as J.C. in the affidavit.

Then, J.H. and his father received multiple threatening messages from the girl’s mother, according to the document. In the voice messages, Lewis told them “he was dead” and claimed she was coming to the house and “wasn’t coming alone.”

Police also interviewed J.C., who said she, her mother and Lewis Johnson drove to Blaine and Arkansas avenues, where Lewis told her Johnson had his gun and “was going to get” J.H., referring to him with a nickname.

The girl watched Johnson leave the car and walk toward the home before she got out and walked away, according to the document. Then, she heard gunshots and saw Johnson run back to the car and drive away.

Video from an elevator shows Johnson and Lewis together shortly before the homicide, according to the document. In addition, another witness, whose identity was not included in the papers, saw a man wearing the same clothing as Johnson running from the teen’s home immediately after hearing gunshots.

Cu’raan was pronounced dead at AtlantiCare Regional Medical Center, City Campus. An autopsy determined the cause of death was multiple gunshot wounds and the manner of death was homicide, according to the Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office.

Johnson, 31, of Newark, has been charged with murder and possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose in the killing, and Lewis, 35, of Pleasantville, was charged with murder and conspiracy to commit murder.

The pair were arrested Tuesday in Wilson, Pennsylvania, and they have been arraigned as fugitives, the first step in the extradition process back to New Jersey. Both are housed at the Northampton County jail, staff confirmed Friday.

Cu’raan, who was known as “Ron Ron,” enjoyed playing basketball, liked music and was a talented rapper, according to his obituary. In addition to his parents, he is survived by four brothers and two sisters, as well as many others.

Bishop last spoke with her son three days prior to his murder, she said.

“I just bought him a pair of sneakers last week and gave them to him,” she said, adding the two arrests in the case haven’t given her closure in his death. “Not for me, because he should not have been there.”

JaVonn Parrish had expected to return to work at Bourre next week, when outdoor dining resumes in New Jersey, but the relaxing of Atlantic City’s open-container laws brought him back early.

Cape May says yes to open containers

CAPE MAY — City Council on Thursday approved allowing the consumption of alcohol in several areas of town, including the beach, the Washington Street Mall and several parks.

Three of the five members of the city’s governing body voted in favor of the resolution, which takes effect immediately and is temporary. It will allow the consumption of up to 16 ounces and does not allow glass containers.

Supporters of the move describe it as necessary if the city’s restaurants are to survive the pandemic, while those opposed argued it would fundamentally change the family atmosphere of the resort.

Cape May joins Atlantic City, North Wildwood and other towns in allowing alcohol to be consumed in public, at least until Gov. Phil Murphy lifts emergency measures that have kept people out of bars and restaurants for months.

Restaurants have been limited to offering takeout, including beer, wine and mixed drinks under an amendment to state law. Mayor Clarence “Chuck” Lear argues that is not enough for restaurants to remain in business.

Restaurants are set to take a small step toward normal next week. As of Monday, the state plans to allow outside dining at restaurants, including table service. In Cape May, the city approved several proposals from restaurants to use public sidewalks and other spaces for tables, which was the original reason for the special council meeting Thursday.

City Manager Jerry Inderwies Jr. said he rejected some proposals, including some he said suggested closing roads and other steps to allow for more table room, while he recommended approval for several restaurants’ plans and expects more proposals to come in over the weekend.

Councilwoman Stacy Sheehan voted against the outside dining approvals, not because she objected to any specific plan but because she said she did not have enough time to evaluate the resolution. She said she got her copy about a half hour before the start of the late afternoon meeting, which was held remotely because of the ongoing restrictions related to COVID-19.

Inderwies said he and other staff members worked on the proposals up until the last possible minute, and had been working close to nonstop to get as many outdoor seating plans approved as possible. Some requests came too late for consideration at that meeting, he said.

Cape May has granted Inderwies broad discretion in approving the outdoor seating plans on restaurant properties, but requests to use sidewalks or other public spaces require council approval.

Allowing alcohol in public proved the thornier issue. Council had discussed a much broader proposal earlier in the week, which would have lifted the ban on open containers in public throughout the city. Councilman Zack Mullock pushed for limits, including on where and when alcohol could be consumed.

He got them, with the new resolution limiting the time to between 5 and 10 p.m., and allowing people to sit or stroll with beer, wine or mixed drinks on the beach, the Promenade, along the length of the Washington Street Mall and its adjoining Rotary Park.

The amendment also applies to the sidewalks of several areas of town where alcohol is served, including sections of Lafayette, Bank, Elmira, Jackson, Decatur, Ocean and Washington streets, Carpenters Lane and others.

Most are close to the center of town, while others are in discreet neighborhoods close to businesses with liquor licenses, including on Texas and Beach avenues on the east side of town.

Mullock abstained from the vote. His family business holds a liquor license. But he expressed concerns about the long-term impact of the proposal and suggested it will mean more work for an already overburdened Police Department.

He also suggested drinking on the beach could lead to reckless behavior near the ocean after lifeguards go off duty.

Sheehan voted no, saying the city is already allowing more outside tables to help restaurants.

“We can’t control what the governor’s orders are, or that COVID happened. I think as a council we’re doing our best to help the businesses along,” she said. “I just want to state for the record that I’m against the open container law. I will not be voting for it. I don’t see the financial boost that it’s giving to these restaurants.”

Instead, she suggested, it will lead to large gatherings on the Washington Street Mall, impeding retail operations.

Councilwoman Patricia Gray Hendricks said she would normally not support allowing open consumption, but these are not normal times.

“I think the COVID-19 pandemic has had enormous implications for our state, our country and our city, and for months now, we’ve been trying to strike the right balance between keeping people safe and trying to stabilize the economy,” Hendricks said. “This is not an easy task.”

If no further action is taken, the amendment ends at 11:59 p.m. Nov. 1.

Councilman Shaine Meier said he supports the change to support businesses, stating it will not be a free-for-all.

“This will allow the police to focus on the problems and not on Mr. and Mrs. Smith might be in their 50s or 60s, enjoying a crush on the boardwalk,” he said. “It’s better than seeing closed doors throughout the town.”

Multiple people wrote to council about the issue, with City Clerk Erin Burke reading the letters and emails into the record.

Several restaurants supported the proposal, as did the Cape May Chamber of Commerce. Several residents wrote in opposition to the proposal, including some who fear rowdy behavior and other problems spilling into quiet neighborhoods.

Council members who supported the change said it could be quickly rescinded if there is a problem. Hendricks said the decision should not be politicized.

“Whatever decisions we make, we are truly in this all together,” she said.

Gaba A screenshot of President Dr. Barbara Gaba addressing Atlantic Cape Community College’s graduating Class of 2020 virtually.

Spirit of Atlantic City returns to life with alcohol to go

ATLANTIC CITY — JaVonn Parrish was smiling from ear to ear (behind his mask, of course) while stocking the to-go bar Friday afternoon at Bourre on New York Avenue.

Do you support the idea of open containers on the Atlantic City Boardwalk?

The Atlantic City native had been eager to return to his job next week when outdoor dining will be allowed to resume. But the city’s decision this week to permit open consumption of alcohol on the Boardwalk, the Orange Loop (where Bourre is located) and Gardner’s Basin meant he was starting a few days early.

“I miss the people. I miss everything. It’s crazy, just sitting at home for two months,” he said while placing labels with the Cajun-themed restaurant’s alligator logo on a stack of clear plastic cups. “It’s exciting to be back and see all my co-workers. I’m excited for people to be able to come outside and have a drink. I love it.”

Parrish said his hope was that the new open container order is another step toward getting “as close as we can to normal,” as businesses reopen and tourists start to return to Atlantic City since the onset of the novel coronavirus pandemic.

At the other end of the Boardwalk, John and Laurie Walker sat on a bench adjacent to The Biergarten Atlantic City, quietly sipping ice-cold drinks. The Walkers said they came out Friday because the thought of enjoying a cocktail in the sunshine and ocean air “sounded like fun.”

“It’s about time this happened,” John Walker said.

Laurie Walker was drinking an $11 coconut-pineapple-tequila concoction from The Biergarten and enjoying every last sip of it.

“This is our first time here. I like it,” she said. “We’ll have to come back now.”

Before the couple turned back toward Ventnor, they each grabbed another cocktail for the walk home.

Mayor Marty Small Sr. announced an executive order Monday temporarily permitting the consumption of alcoholic beverages in designated areas of the city. Small said the order was intended to give restaurants and bars a much-needed “shot in the arm,” as businesses begin to reopen following statewide shutdowns to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

By 1 p.m. Friday, more than a dozen customers had purchased an adult beverage from the walk-up bar at Bourre before moving on to other stops on a designated bar crawl.

Dom Lafragola, Anna Myers and a handful of co-workers from Mickey’s Port of Call Pub in Tuckerton were outside the Tennessee Avenue Beer Hall, the group’s second stop of the day. For them, not only was Friday’s open container bar crawl an event worth going to, but it was a chance to help out fellow small businesses.

“Atlantic City needs the love right now,” said Myers, 25, of Tuckerton. “We try to go out whenever we can and support locals, go to the areas that need it most.”

Lafragola, 26, of Tuckerton, a Holy Spirit High School graduate, said Atlantic City is “home to me.”

“This whole area — I kind of feel it rising. I know that sounds cliche, but you’re starting to see the personalities come out and everybody seems comfortable for the first time in a while,” he said. “It’s nice to see that personality (of the city) shine through and take on an identity of its own.”

Local developer and business owner Mark Callazzo stood outside the beer hall Friday and chatted up customers on the street a few feet away. Callazzo, co-founder and CEO of Alpha Funding Solutions, said open containers and a walkable business district were a small part of a larger vision he and others shared for the Orange Loop (consisting of New York Avenue, Tennessee Avenue and St. James Place) when the project started nearly five years ago.

“I’ve said from Day One (that) Atlantic City is an adult town and we should embrace that we’re an adult town,” he said. “That’s really what we should be. Atlantic City is the adult entertainment capital of South Jersey.”

The city’s order permitting open containers expires in November, or whenever coronavirus-related restrictions are lifted by Gov. Phil Murphy, whichever comes first.

City officials and local lawmakers have been trying to pass legislation in Trenton that would permanently allow open containers in designated areas of Atlantic City. Thomas Forkin, former chairman of the municipal Alcohol Beverage Control Board and mayoral candidate, has been pushing for Atlantic City to have open container laws for nearly a decade.

On Friday afternoon, Forkin was one of the first in line to grab an adult beverage to go.

“To finally (be able to do this),” Forkin said, grinning and pausing to take a sip of his drink, “it feels good.”

PHOTOS of the Atlantic City Boardwalk bar crawl

Atlantic City's May casino revenue down 65% in virus closing

ATLANTIC CITY — May was almost as bad a month for the city’s casinos as April was.

With casinos shuttered and silent due to the coronavirus, the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement said Friday the casinos and two racetracks elsewhere in the state took in $91.1 million in May, a decrease of more than 65% from May 2019.

That put it just below April in terms of the all-time biggest year-over-year declines for gambling revenue in the state. April’s decline was nearly 69% compared to a year before.

As was the case in April, nearly all that money came from internet gambling operations, nearly $86 million. That total was up over 124% from a year earlier when all nine casinos were open.

With most major sports shut down due to the pandemic, sports betting generated a minuscule $9.9 million for the casinos and two horse tracks: the Meadowlands and Monmouth Park.

Though casinos in numerous other states have reopened, Atlantic City’s remain closed, with no reopening date set. Many hope to be open by July 4 but acknowledge they have no idea when Gov. Phil Murphy will give the go-ahead to resume operations.

Golden Nugget Atlantic City, which leads New Jersey’s online gambling industry, took in the most money in May at more than $29 million, virtually all of it from internet operations. (It won an additional $54,000 from sports betting.) Its performance represented a decline of 6.8% from a year earlier, the best in Atlantic City in May.

Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa was next at $17.3 million, down nearly 72% from a year ago. Tropicana won $6.7 million, down 77%; Hard Rock won $5.6 million, down more than 81%; Ocean Casino Resort won nearly $1.5 million, down 91.5%; and Bally’s Atlantic City won less than $33,000, all of it from sports betting, down 99.8% from a year earlier.

Harrah’s Resort Atlantic City reported negative revenue of more than $16,000 for the month, compared with revenue of $25.6 million a year earlier. The casino said the loss represented sports bets made before the shutdown that were paid out in May.

Two casinos, Caesars Atlantic City and Resorts Casino Hotel, reported no casino revenue, but conduct internet gambling operations through online affiliates. Resorts Digital won $21.4 million online, up 77% from a year earlier, and Caesars Interactive-NJ won $9.4 million, up nearly 110%.

What were the biggest online jackpots scored in New Jersey in May?