Monday, July 17, 2017

Remembering the 26 People Who Died in the Newark Rebellion
July 13, 2017
By Karen Yi
NJ Advance Media for

There was the 10-year-old boy fatally shot in the back of his family's car. The mother of 11 children killed by a bullet that pierced her 10th-floor apartment window. And a beloved Newark Fire captain who died in the line of duty.

Over the five turbulent days that tore at the city of Newark in 1967, 26 people died -- most from the more than 12,000 bullets shot in the 26-square-mile city. NJ Advance Media sifted through testimony by family members and witnesses given to the Essex County Grand Jury that investigated the deaths to find who they were, how they died and who they left behind.

Witness accounts gathered by the Newark Legal Services Project published by historian Junius Williams and interviews by late journalist Ron Porambo often offer conflicting accounts to the grand jury report. In the end, no one was indicted on charges related to the killings.

Rose Abraham

The 45-year-old woman was a wife and mother of six children. She died around 12:30 a.m. on July 14, 1967, records show. Abraham was looking for her children and walking toward Springfield Avenue when she was shot, according to testimony from Anna Mae Whichard.

Eloise Spellman

A mother of 11 children, Spellman was fatally shot through the window of her 10th floor apartment at Hayes Homes by National Guardsmen and police, records show. Kimberly Spellman, her youngest daughter, told The Star-Ledger she still calls her mother's death murder. "It was unnecessary for them to think there was snipers shooting down. They never found the sniper," she said.

Eddie Moss

The 10-year-old boy was shot in the back of the car as he was riding with his family, according to the grand jury report. The family, including Moss' three other brothers, was coming back from eating dinner at White Castle around 8 p.m. on July 14, 1967 when he was killed, according to RiseUp Newark, a website compiled by Newark historian Junius Williams.

Michael Moran

Newark Fire Capt. Michael Moran was killed around 10 p.m. on July 15, 1967 on 500 Central Avenue, records show. It's unknown who shot the bullet that killed him at 41 years old. He left behind six children.

"We've accepted the fact that he was doing his duty. He responded to that fire scene and he lost his life in the line of duty," his eldest son, Mike Moran told NJ Advance Media. "My father was a leader, he was a fire captain, he was studying to become a chief in the Newark Fire Department. I think he instilled that in us -- his leadership and his sense of trying to do well and to progress."

Isaac Harrison

Originally from Jamaica, Harrison, 73, raised nine children in Newark and lived in Scudder Homes, according to RiseUp Newark. He died on July 14, 1967 around 5 p.m. He was the oldest victim of the riots.

Harrison, Robert Lee Martin and Detective Frederick Toto were all killed within minutes of each other. Police were responding in the area and began firing at Scudder Homes in response to sniper fire, according to the grand jury report.

Frederick Toto

Det. Toto joined the police department in 1962 and was a father of three children. He died at 33 years old along Broome and Mercer Streets, likely due to sniper fire, according to the grand jury report.
Essex County Sheriff Armando Fontoura told NJ Advance Media he remembers responding to the scene. "You hear 'Cop down, cop shot,' you respond. You get there, you know, one of your brothers is gone... Those are the things that your emotions get the best of you, you try not to cry but you turn your head and some tears flow a little bit. Not just for Fred Toto and the firefighter killed but for everything else. Most of them are innocent people that got caught in the crossfires somewhere," he said.

Robert Lee Martin

Martin was shot and killed near the Scudder Homes apartments, according to the grand jury report. He graduated high school in Mississippi and moved to Newark to live with his parents, according to RiseUp Newark. He worked as a janitor and died at 22 years old on his way back from the grocery store.

Albert Mersier, Jr.

An East Side High School graduate, Mersier was killed during the riots on July 14, 1967. His older sister, Ann Penn told The Star-Ledger in a 2007 interview that she's still pained by his death and hoped that telling her story would bring healing. "You can talk about it all the time, but when people don't remember, that's what hurts," she told a reporter.

Rufus Council

Rose Wright said she was standing with Rufus Council when she saw a police car with three state troopers speeding their way, according to her testimony. Council was standing in the doorway of a restaurant while Wright moved to the back of the restaurant and said she heard several shots which "sounded as though they were coming from the car that had just driven up."

Wright said Council, 35, was "laying on his back and blood, a thick red clotting type of blood, had formed a big clot in the area of his left temple. Rufus was dead." Council left behind his wife and two teenage children, according to Rutgers archival material.

William Furr

The 25-year-old was shot by Newark police officers as he "fled from a burglarized liquor store," according to the grand jury report. A reporter for LIFE magazine witnessed the shooting after meeting Furr on Avon Avenue, according to RiseUp Newark. The reporter, Dale Wittner, said Furr had come to Newark to pick up an unemployment check and look for a job.

Tedock Bell

Bell worked at Ben's Tavern on Bergen Street as a bartender and was shot and killed as he walked with his family to see if anything had happened to the tavern. Bell, 28, left behind his wife and was a father of four children. He was fatally wounded by an unidentified Newark police officer after the officer yelled halt, according to the Grand Jury.

Michael Pugh

The 12-year-old boy lived with his mother and older brother in Newark. He was shot dead on July 15, 1967 around 11 p.m. near the front steps of his building, according to his brother, Andrew James Pugh, who testified before the Essex County Grand Jury.

Pugh was in sixth grade and was going to begin working in a summer jobs program the next day, according to Rutgers University records. He was killed while reportedly taking out the garbage.

Jessie Mae Jones

Jones was shot in the abdomen while sitting on her porch, according to RiseUp Newark. She was shot by a man who was throwing rocks at passing cars and got into a confrontation with one of them. His shot struck Jones, 31, according to RiseUp Newark.

James Rutledge

Rutledge was 19 years old when he was shot 39 times, according to historian Junius Williams.

Williams investigated the scene at Jo-Rae's shortly after Rutledge's death and wrote about his findings in NJ Monthly this month: "On Day 4 of the Rebellion, state police surprised 19-year-old James Rutledge in a vandalized liquor store. Cornered, Rutledge stood up to surrender. Police shot him 39 times." The grand jury report said Rutledge was shot multiple times.

Leroy Boyd

At 34 years old, Boyd was killed July 14, 1967 when he was shot in his back when an officer's gun accidentally discharged, according to the grand jury report.

Rebecca Brown

Working as a nurse's aide at Orange Memorial Hospital, Brown lived in the Hayes Homes apartments with her husband and four children, according to RiseUp Newark, a website by historian Junius Williams. Brown was fatally shot when a bullet pierced her window, according to the grand jury. The report said state police and National Guardsmen responded to the area because of reported sniper fire and began shooting at the surrounding buildings.

Brown was shot around the same time as Eloise Spellman and Hattie Gainer.

Hattie Gainer

The 53-year-old was a grandmother of three and was shot in her Hayes Homes apartment building while sitting by her second-floor window, according to a Washington Post story on her death published on RiseUp Newark. One of Gainer's favorite pastimes, according to the story, was sitting by her window and talking to neighbors. She was one of three women killed in Hayes Homes that day when police and National Guardsmen responded to the area on a report of sniper shooting, the grand jury report said.

Raymond Gilmer

The father of four was killed by a Newark detective, according to the grand jury report.

Raymond Hawk

Hawk, 24, was shot and killed by police on Frelinghuysen Avenue on the night of July 15, 1967. He lived in the South Ward and had a wife and a two-year-old son, according to RiseUp Newark. The grand jury report said Hawk was shot when he ran toward police holding an object in his hand that looked like a pipe. An account offered by journalist Ron Porambo in his book, "No Cause for Indictment" offers a conflicting account and said Hawk was not aware of the burglary and was not in any way armed.

Mary Helen Campbell

Campbell, 31, lived in the Clinton Hill section of the city with her sister, according to RiseUp Newark. She was on her way back from a party early morning on July 14, 1967 when the car she was riding in and a Newark fire truck collied, according to reports.

Cornelius Murray

Murray was shot at 29 years old while he was standing with a group of friends on Jones Street, according to the grand jury report. Witnesses told the grand jury they saw Newark police firing at the group; the incident occurred shortly after Det. Frederick Toto was killed, the report said.

Oscar Hill

Hill, 50, who worked at the Spring Manor Tavern on Jones Street, was shot to death. The grand jury report did not say who shot him. A friend of Hill's told journalist Porambo that he saw police shoot Hill as he was walking to work.

James Sanders

The 16-year-old boy was shot by Newark police while fleeing a looted liquor story on Springfield Avenue, the grand jury report said. He was one of 11 children.

Richard Taliaferro

Taliaferro, 25, the youngest of seven children, was shot to death, the grand jury report said. He worked at A&P Bakery on Frelinghuysen Avenue and was always working, according to RiseUp Newark.

A lone National Guardsmen patrols a Newark street in 1967. (Donna Gialanella for The Star-Ledger)

Victor Louis Smith

Smith died of a drug overdose and was found dead in a hallway on July 16, 1967 around 8:30 a.m., according to the grand jury report. His age was unknown.

Elizabeth Artis

The 65-year-old woman died of a heart attack at her home on Prince Street on July 16, 1967 around 4:30 a.m., the grand jury report said.

Karen Yi may be reached at Follow her on Twitter at @karen_yi or on Facebook. 

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