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Tuesday, December 24, 2013

New Jersey Carjackers Murder Dustin Friedland at Shopping Mall

     On Sunday evening, December 15, 2013, 30-year-old Dustin Friedland and his wife Jamie finished shopping at the Mall at Short Hills, a fancy retail mecca ten miles west of Newark, New Jersey. Friedland and his 27-year-old wife had been married two years. After loading Christmas packages into their silver 2012 Range Rover on the mall's parking deck, the Hoboken lawyer opened the passenger door for his wife. At that moment two assailants confronted the holiday shoppers. One of the men pulled out a handgun and shot Mr. Friedland in the head at close range.

     After the shooting, the carjackers pulled Jamie Friedland out of the Range Rover and drove off in the SUV. They were followed by two other men in a green Chevrolet Suburban.

     Paramedics rushed Dustin Friedland to the Morristown Medical Center where he died a short time later.

     This senseless violence at the shopping mall shocked and frightened residents of this low-crime area of the state. While the nearby city of Newark, once called the "car theft capital of the world," was a crime-ridden place, the urban mayhem rarely spilled over to upscale Essex County suburbia. (In 2013 450 carjackings took place in and around Newark. Last year there were 422 of these violent crimes.)

     On Monday morning, December 16, police officers came across the Friedland's SUV abandoned behind a boarded-up house in south Newark. Two days later, in South Orange, a town not far from the Mall at Short Hills, police officers discovered an abandoned green Chevrolet Suburban registered to a woman in Newark. This vehicle matched the description of a car caught on a surveillance camera circling the mall's parking area shortly before the murder. The finding of the green Chevy broke the case wide open.

     Police officers, between nine o'clock on Friday night December 21 and three the next morning, arrested four men in connection with the Friedland carjacking murder. Officers arrested 29-year-old Hanif Thompson at his home in Irvington, New Jersey. In Newark, a SWAT team took Karif Ford, 31 and Kevin Roberts, 33, into custody. In the early morning hours of December 22, officers arrested 32-year-old Basim Henry at a Comfort Inn near Easton, Pennsylvania.

     An Essex County prosecutor charged each of the four suspects with murder, felony murder, carjacking, and several lesser offenses. The men were booked into the Essex Correctional Facility where they were each held on $2 million bail.

     The four men suspected of murdering Dustin Friedland in cold blood were not strangers to crime nor the criminal justice system. They were not out-of-control teenagers high on drugs, but seasoned adult criminals. Basim Henry had robbed a Union Township bank in November 2003. He pleaded guilty to the crime in 2006. In April of this year, Henry walked out of prison after a sympathetic judge reduced his 96-month prison sentence.

     Police arrested Karif Ford in 2012 after the 30-year-old led police officers on a three-mile, high-speed chase in a car Ford had stolen from a supermarket parking lot. In 2003 a jury found Ford guilty of burglary. The judge sentenced him to five years in prison.

     Hanif Thomspon, originally from eastern Pennsylvania, had moved to Irvington, New Jersey several years ago. Thompson had a record of narcotics and theft convictions. Kevin Roberts, although he had a criminal record, did not have the reputation of being a hardened, violent criminal.

     According to reports, the four murder suspects, shortly after their arrests, began snitching on each other in an effort to strike plea bargain deals for lighter sentences. (Each man probably admitted taking part in the carjacking but denied being the shooter.)

     The authorities have not recovered the murder weapon or revealed which man pulled the trigger. If convicted as charged, each suspect could be sentenced to life behind bars.

     

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