Man shot to death at the bar in Ap­ple­bee’s in Lawrence

The Trentonian (Trenton, NJ) - - FRONT PAGE - By Penny Ray Staff writer Isaac Avilucea contributed to this re­port.

LAWRENCE » It ap­pears no place in Amer­ica is safe from gun­fire. Not even a chain restau­rant in a quiet, small sub­ur­ban New Jersey town.

Devin Smith, 23, was shot and killed in­side Ap­ple­bee’s on Route 1 around 12:25 a.m. Tues­day.

Sources who spoke on con­di­tion of anonymity say Smith was sit­ting at the bar hav­ing a drink when a gun­man walked up on him, shot him in the head and left the premises.

It’s un­clear whether any­one ac­com­pa­nied Smith at the restau­rant, but sources say he was sit­ting alone when he was mur­dered. No other in­juries were re­ported.

The sus­pect, de­scribed as a black man in his mid20s, fled the restau­rant in a dark-col­ored SUV, ac­cord­ing to the county prose­cu­tor’s of­fice.

No ar­rests have been made as the investigation con­tin­ues. The mo­tive for the killing is not known at this time, but sources be­lieve the gun­man and vic­tim had a long-stand­ing beef that cul­mi­nated in mur­der.

Up un­til Tues­day’s homi­cide, Lawrence had not ex­pe­ri­enced a sin­gle gun as­sault all year. In 2015 and 2016, the town­ship ex­pe­ri­enced only two and three gun as­saults, re­spec­tively. The last mur­der to hap­pen in Lawrence oc­curred at the Sleepy Hol­low Mo­tel on Brunswick Pike in 2001.

“I think our crime has been his­tor­i­cally low over the course of the past sev­eral years due to the dili­gence and proac­tive polic­ing strate­gies of our of­fi­cers, de­tec­tives and su­per­vi­sors,” Chief Mark Ubry said.

Al­though the town­ship has less than 35,000 res­i­dents and rarely ex­pe­ri­ences homi­cides, cops in Lawrence say they try to re­main dili­gent and an­tic­i­pate vi­o­lent crimes. How­ever, this crime was not some­thing one could an­tic­i­pate, a source said, adding “It’s un­for­tu­nate it hap­pened in Ap­ple­bee’s.”

An Ap­ple­bee’s spokesper­son said via email the lo­cal fran­chisee is fully co­op­er­at­ing with in­ves­ti­ga­tors.

“We of­fer our con­do­lences to the fam­ily of those im­pacted,” the state­ment said. “The safety and se­cu­rity of our guests and team mem­bers is para­mount.”

Smith’s body re­mained in the restau­rant for nearly 12 hours. Of­fi­cials re­moved it from the build­ing around 12:30 p.m. Shortly there­after, con­do­lences and mem­o­ries of Smith, who was af­fec­tion­ately known as “Dynomite,” were shared on Face­book. His friends ex­pressed sor­row about the “sense­less” act that took his life, while re­mem­ber­ing him as a love­able “goof­ball” who al­ways found a way to have a good time.

A woman in­ti­mately linked to Smith, Bri­ana Anderson, posted video of them danc­ing at a night­club. They both had smiles on their faces as they swayed to the mu­sic. The cou­ple ap­pear to have a child to­gether. In the post, Anderson talked about rais­ing their daugh­ter with­out Smith.

“No mat­ter what we’ve been through, you still made a way to make me smile,” Anderson wrote in trib­ute. “Thank you for the great­est gift ever. I can cher­ish Olivia for the rest of her life and I know you will al­ways be look­ing down on her, see­ing the beau­ti­ful, smart and in­tel­li­gent lady she will grow into.”

Another friend, Marco Rios, said in a Face­book post he re­mem­bered go­ing to church every Sun­day with Smith and his mother. The two grew up to­gether play­ing video games and shared other fond ex­pe­ri­ences.

“I re­mem­ber stay­ing up all night play­ing video games with Devin ‘Dynomite’ Smith,” Rios wrote. “I re­mem­ber when I was a young boy I went miss­ing cause I didn’t have a phone and I was at my friend’s house, so my mom called the cops and all her friends to find me. When I got home, Dev and his mom was there mak­ing sure I was good. It’s so many mem­o­ries I have with you, bro, that I will never for­get . ... My heart still hurts. I don’t even have the words right now but I love you, bro. Watch over me, brother. ... I just don’t un­der­stand why this hap­pened.”

Any­one with in­for­ma­tion about Smith’s mur­der is asked to contact the Mercer County Homi­cide Task Force at 609-989-6406.


In­ves­ti­ga­tors out­side the Ap­ple­bee’s in Lawrence af­ter a mur­der hap­pened in the restau­rant early Tues­day morn­ing.

Devin Smith


Po­lice hold up a sheet as they re­move the mur­der vic­tim’s body from the Ap­ple­bee’s in Lawrence.


A ca­nine unit searches the park­ing lot out­side the Ap­ple­bee’s in Lawrence af­ter a mur­der hap­pened in the restau­rant early Tues­day morn­ing.

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