Police ID suspect in double killing
NEWBURGH >> A 17-year-old from Newburgh is wanted for second-degree murder for the shooting deaths of two young women at a Halloween party, city police said Monday.
Nija A. Johnson is being sought in the killings of Omani Free, 18, and Tabitha Cruz, 20, early Sunday in an apartment building at 119 Broadway in Newburgh, police said. They said there’s a $2,500 reward for information leading to Johnson’s arrest and conviction.
Earlier Monday, police announced the arrests of Rainier Hamilton, 21, and Tyson Oliveira, 20, both of Newburgh, for allegedly helping the gunman immediately after the double killing. Hamilton was charged with the felonies of criminal possession of a weapon (a handgun) and tampering with evidence; Oliveira was charged with tampering with physical evidence.
Police said neither man is “accused of committing the shooting.”
Five other people, who were not identified, were struck by gunfire in the shootings that killed Free and Cruz, police said. They said all were expected to recover.
Police said the shootings took place just before 1 a.m. Sunday.
Free’s mother, Rhonda Valentine-Free, said her daughter decided to go to the party, about five blocks from home, when a friend became available Saturday night and otherwise would have been due home around the time the gunfire broke out.
The Newburgh school district, meanwhile, made counselors available Monday to students, staff and families.
In a prepared statement, the district said it “joins with the Newburgh community as we mourn the loss of two young lives lost in a tragic shooting early Sunday morning. In addition, countless other lives were forever altered in this senseless act of violence.”
Mid-Hudson News Network and The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Tabitha Cruz, left, and Omani Free
Rainier Hamilton, left, and Tyson Oliveria