MILFORD, Pa.— Authorities reported that a New Jersey borough councilperson was fatally shot this week, the state’s second such attack in seven days.
Milford councilman Russell Heller was 51. Heller, a supervisor at PSE&G Central Division headquarters in Somerset for 11 years, was shot in the parking lot at 7 a.m. on Wednesday.
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In a news statement, Franklin Township Police claimed 911 calls sent officers to the business. Responding officers found Heller dead from a gunshot wound. Police said emergency care personnel pronounced him deceased at the spot.
The suspected gunman was 58-year-old Gary Curtis of Washington township. Authorities claimed Curtis, a former PSE&G employee, died from a self-inflicted gunshot some hours later. The suspect’s body was found in his car in a nearby township’s parking lot.
“The investigation is ongoing to ascertain motivation,” said Franklin Township police in their notice about the incident. “Preliminary inquiry shows the shooting was an isolated occurrence and Mr. Heller was the intended target.”
CBS New York reported that Somerset County’s prosecutor’s office stated Thursday morning that the tragic shooting was not politically motivated.
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“Investigators have confirmed that Mr. Heller was a Republican Councilman for Milford Borough (Hunterdon County),” CBS New York said. “The investigation found that Mr. Heller’s shooting was unrelated to his official job or political affiliation.”
Heller’s death occurred one week after Sayreville borough councilwoman Eunice Dwumfour was shot and killed in her automobile on Feb. 1. Dwumfour, 30, was the township’s first Black elected official.
Sayreville Mayor Victoria Kilpatrick commended her former colleague and friend as someone who “broke through that glass ceiling” and “confidently, with grace and dignity, stepped boldly to her position on the dais in her distinctive glittering high heels” at her memorial this week. Dwumfour’s killer has not been arrested.
New Jersey political figures reacted on social media Wednesday to Heller’s murder, mimicking their responses to Dwumfour’s murder.
“A fatal shooting occurred outside a Franklin Township PSE&G facility this morning. We pray for Russell Heller’s family and friends after terrible gun violence “Governor Phil Murphy tweeted Wednesday. The governor retweeted PSE&G.
“We are grieved at the untimely death of Russell Heller, senior distribution supervisor at PSE&G,” the firm wrote.
“He will be sadly missed by all,” said PSE&G. “Our staff is being supported during this unfortunate and upsetting situation. We’re helping police investigate.”
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In another tweet after Heller’s death, New Jersey Rep. Tom Kean, whose district includes Franklin township in Somerset County, hailed Heller.
“The horrible murder of Milford Councilman Russell Heller surprised and grieved me,” the congressman wrote. “Russell proudly served the river town he loved. I pray for his family and Milford.”