Two Years After Summit Tragedy … What Has Changed?
Tuesday, July 17, 2012 • 6:55am
SUMMIT, NJ - The Summit Promenade on a recent Saturday evening was quiet and peaceful. The rushing waters of the fountain lent a pastoral calm as young families and prosperous couples strolled along Springfield Avenue in the humid summer stillness.
The contrast with the same scene two years ago could not have been more stark.
On Saturday, July 17, 2010, Abelino Mazariego, a 47-year-old Summit resident and local restaurant worker was brutally assaulted by a group of teenagers while he sat on a bench in the promenade. He died the following Tuesday at Overlook Hospital from severe head trauma and other injuries sustained in the attack.
What followed over the next few days was a blur of rumor, accusation, investigation and doubt. An estimate crowd of 1,000 people marched from City Hall to the site of the tragedy to share their sorrow and sympathy for the victim, a dramatic outpouring of support from the Summit community.
Two years later, what has changed?
In the days following the attack, Summit Police arrested and charged three young men after an amateur cell-phone video made at the time evidenced the depraved and vicious nature of this crime. Eighteen-year-old Khayri Williams-Clark of Summit and Nigel Dumas, 19, of Morristown were charged. A third suspect, Hakean Fitzgerald of Summit was a minor at the time but the Union County Prosecutor subsequently waived him to be tried as an adult.
Two other minors, a 17-year-old and a 15-year-old, were arrested and charged with conspiracy to commit aggravated assault, conspiracy to commit robbery, robbery and aggravated assault.
Bail was set at $250,000 for Williams-Clark, $300,000 for Dumas and $750,000 for Fitzgerald.
On Jan. 14, 2011 a Union County Grand Jury handed down indictments charging the three main defendants with one count each of Felony Murder, 1st Degree Murder and Robbery. Dumas and Fitzgerald are currently being held in the Union County Jail in Elizabeth. Fitzgerald and Dumas were both found by the court to be eligible for representation by the Public Defender’s office. Fitzgerald is represented by 1st Assistant Deputy Public Defender Wayne Morse. Dumas is being represented by Roy Greenman, a designated counsel. Designated counsels are private practice attorneys who are selected from a pool by the Public Defender’s office.
Williams-Clark was freed on bail as of Sept. 3, 2010 and is being represented by prominent New Jersey defense attorney Randy Davenport of Newark.
According to the Union County Prosecutors office the case is “making its way through the courts. We are in the pre-trial, discovery phase”. Sources in the County Courthouse tell The Alternative Press that a trial date has been set for Oct. 22, 2012. The case has been assigned to Union County Criminal Division Judge Stuart Peim.
Celine Benet, an informal liaison to the Hispanic community in Summit and a spokesperson for the Mazariego family expressed the family’s impatience with the pace of the criminal proceedings. “They don’t feel that justice is being served or that enough is being done. They (the family) can’t fully understand the American system where someone is innocent until proven guilty. In many Latin American countries just the opposite is true … people are assumed to be guilty with the burden of proof on them to show their innocence,” Benet continued.
The Summit Police Department has made changes as well. In response to the July 2010 incident the first of three surveillance cameras was installed directly across from the promenade in the spring of 2012.
The live video from this camera is fed to a monitor in Summit Police Headquarters a few blocks away where it is situated at the main dispatcher’s desk. The camera is on 24 hours a day, seven days a week and can be remote controlled for zooming and panning. Later this year, two more cameras will be brought on-line and the three systems will connect through a sophisticated network. The exact location of these new devices is yet to be determined but they will likely be placed somewhere within the Central Business District.
According the Summit Police Captain Steven Zagorsky there is now a permanently assigned foot or bicycle patrol officer whose sole responsibility is to keep watch over the Central Business district “from 8 a.m. until late in to the evening.”
And, in a nod to 21st century innovations, the Summit Police just took possession of a new Segway that will be deployed as part of a new Community Policing Unit. The Segway was purchased using privately donated funds and made its public debut at the 4th of July fireworks earlier this month.
Summit Mayor Ellen Dickson commended the steps taken thus far “the new Police Chief is committed to downtown foot patrols” she said. “I believe the death of Mr. Mazariego two years ago was a tragic but isolated event.” Dickson went on to add “People should feel very safe in downtown Summit.”
The Promenade itself is in the midst of a transformation. The building to the right was sold to new owners who are making significant renovations to the interior and exterior space. A new shop specializing in Summit sports merchandise will also house a popular local caterer. The Summit Area Development Corporation (SADC) is working with local building and business owners to spearhead a private / public partnership to refurbish the Promenade with elaborate plantings, reconfigured benches and installations of large art pieces. A May 18 fundraiser was held and according to attendees was enthusiastically attended.
Promotional materials for the May 18 fundraiser referred to creation of an “Urban Oasis” at the Promenade. But in this place 24 months ago there was no oasis, only a mirage. A mirage that everything was fine and good in Summit. And yet today, there is no plaque, no ceremony planned to mark the date of Summit’s most profound loss of life, and a towns loss of innocence.
Benet, the Mazariego family spokesperson, told The Alternative Press that “the family is very private. They will probably mark the anniversary this week by gathering at the Promenade to light a candle, pray for the memory of Abelino Mazariego and share stories of how much he meant to each of them.”
“In just the last two months, both Mr. Mazariego’s oldest son, Abelino Jr. and his youngest daughter were married,” said Benet. “At each of the wedding celebrations their father was very much in their hearts.”