A New Jersey borough councilperson was tragically shot and killed this week, marking the state’s second deadly gun violence incident involving a local elected official in the past seven days.
Russell Heller, 51, served as a council member in the Milford Township and was shot and killed in the parking lot of the PSE&G Central Division headquarters building in Somerset, where he had worked as a supervisor for 11 years.
According to the Franklin Township Police Department, officers were dispatched to the scene after receiving a 911 call. Upon arrival, they found Heller had suffered a fatal gunshot wound. Emergency medical personnel pronounced him dead at the scene. The police are investigating the incident and have not yet made any arrests.
Law enforcement authorities have identified 58-year-old Gary Curtis of Washington Township as the suspect in the deadly shooting. Curtis, a former employee at PSE&G, was found dead several hours after the incident from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound.
The suspect’s body was discovered inside his car in a parking lot in a neighboring township. The police are continuing to investigate the case to determine the exact circumstances of the shooting.
2 GOP politicians in New Jersey were assassinated in one week
If they were Dems, there would be 24/7 coverage of the story
— End Wokeness (@EndWokeness) February 9, 2023
The Franklin Township police department wrote in their release: “The investigation remains on-going to determine motive. Preliminary investigation has revealed that the shooting was an isolated incident and Mr. Heller was the intended target.”
“Investigators have confirmed that Mr. Heller was a Republican Councilman for Milford Borough (Hunterdon County),” according to CBS. “The investigation has revealed that the shooting of Mr. Heller was not politically connected with his elected office or political affiliation.”
The death of Russell Heller came only one week after Eunice Dwumfour, a borough councilwoman in Sayreville, was shot and killed while sitting in a car parked outside of her home. Dwumfour, who was 30 years old, was the first Black person elected to office in the township.
A memorial was held in her honor this week, where Sayreville Mayor Victoria Kilpatrick spoke highly of her former colleague and friend, calling her a trailblazer who broke through barriers with confidence and grace. The police have not yet made any arrests in connection to Dwumfour’s murder.
New Jersey’s political leaders have taken to social media to express their sadness and concern over the recent shootings of local elected officials. These incidents serve as a painful reminder of the devastating impact of gun violence in the state.
New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy wrote in a tweet on Wednesday, “Early this morning, a deadly shooting took place outside of a PSE&G facility in Franklin Township. Our thoughts and prayers are with Russell Heller’s family and friends in the wake of this tragic act of gun violence.”
Early this morning, a deadly shooting took place outside of a PSE&G facility in Franklin Township.
Our thoughts and prayers are with Russell Heller's family and friends in the wake of this tragic act of gun violence. https://t.co/KITkU4G4aS
— Governor Phil Murphy (@GovMurphy) February 8, 2023
In the wake of Russell Heller’s death, New Jersey Representative Tom Kean expressed his sadness and condolences in a message shared on Twitter. Kean represents parts of Somerset County, where Franklin Township is located, and praised Heller for his service to the community.
The congressman wrote: “I am shocked and saddened by the tragic murder of Milford Councilman Russell Heller. Russell was an outstanding public servant who proudly represented the river town he loved. My prayers are with his family and the Milford community.”
I am shocked and saddened by the tragic murder of Milford Councilman Russell Heller. Russell was an outstanding public servant who proudly represented the river town he loved. My prayers are with his family and the Milford community.
— Congressman Tom Kean (@CongressmanKean) February 8, 2023