Friday, April 21, 2017




Halloween party murderer sentenced


GOSHEN – The man who shot seven people at a Halloween party, killing two of them, was sentenced in Orange County Court on Thursday to several state prison terms totaling 40 years to life.

Nija Johnson, 18, of Newburgh, admitting to the shootings early in the morning of October 30, 2016, saying he had intended to kill someone with whom he was involved in a fight. He fired a pistol at least 10 times, striking seven party-goers, killing two young women and wounding five other people.

“A minor altercation on the dance floor led to him firing multiple shots in a room that may have been 20 by 30 feet, hitting multiple people at very close range,” said District Attorney David Hoovler. “This is a heinous, heinous crime. He fled. He was caught and the judge rendered a sentence of a negotiated 40 years for the two murders and the assault on the other victims.”.

Tabitha Cruz, 20, and Omani Free, 18, both of Newburgh, died in the gunfire.

One of the wounded is now wheelchair-bound.  Another still has bullet fragments in him.

Johnson, who was 17 at the time, admitted the only reason he stopped firing the gun, which was still loaded, was because he had been forcibly disarmed by another person at the party.

The .40 caliber pistol with an extended magazine designed to hold 20 rounds, was recovered from behind 119 Broadway, where the party and shootings took place.

Hoovler said Johnson will “likely remain a threat to society even after serving four decades in prison, and hopefully the parole board will carefully consider whether he ever should be released.”  He said the “loss of two innocent young women’s lives, and the serious, and in some cases life-altering, injuries suffered by five other young people caused by these senseless shootings, is almost incomprehensible.”

The DA said it was “chilling” when Johnson told a police officer that, “Nobody fights anymore. We use our guns to settle things.”


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