NEW BRUNSWICK — Three men have pleaded guilty to charges that they took a bank guard’s gun during a bank robbery in Franklin Township and then shot at police officers while fleeing through North Brunswick and New Brunswick, where they were apprehended.
The three men each pleaded guilty to one count of armed robbery and three counts of attempted murder for firing at three police officers, Middlesex County Prosecutor Bruce J. Kaplan announced today. The guilty pleas were entered during a hearing on March 12 at the Middlesex County Courthouse in New Brunswick.
They also pleaded guilty to being certain persons not to have weapons, as each of them had previously served prison terms for various offenses and were banned by law from having weapons. They were charged with carrying five guns, including semi-automatic weapons and a sawed-off shotgun during the robbery on March 12, 2009.
The three defendants are: Anthony Peterson, 47, and James Holmes,58, both of Newark, and James King, also known as Abdullah Muhammad, 56, of East Orange.
Under an agreement reached with Middlesex County Deputy First Assistant Prosecutor Christopher L.C. Kuberiet, the defendants will be sentenced to serve up to 20 years in a New Jersey state prison and must serve 85 percent of the penalty before they can be eligible for parole.
They are scheduled to be sentenced by Superior Court Judge Bradley Ferencz on April 29.
An investigation determined that North Brunswick and New Brunswick police were advised of the bank robbery at 5:56 p.m. on March 12, 2009, at a Bank of America branch on Route 27 at Veronica Avenue in Franklin Township in Somerset County.
Franklin Township and North Brunswick police became involved in the pursuit of the suspects, who headed into New Brunswick, where city police officers joined in the pursuit.
New Brunswick officers followed the suspects’ vehicle onto Delafield Street, which ends at the rear of Saint Peter’s University Hospital. The suspects’ vehicle, a 1996 green Ford Windstar, crashed into a security gate, and four suspects got out of the van. One or more of them began firing at the police officers, who returned the gunfire.
The officers were identified as Michael Coppola and Adam Ramirez, both of the New Brunswick Police Department, and Steven Dunkel of the North Brunswick Police Department.
The suspects ran to nearby Guilden Street, where they were apprehended by police. None of the officers was injured. Two of the defendants, Holmes and King, were wounded and were taken to Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Brunswick. They since have recovered.
The fourth man initially charged in the robbery and shooting, James Phillips Jr., died April 4, 2009, from two gunshot wounds at the age of 59.
Following the guilty pleas, Director Anthony A. Caputo of the New Brunswick Police Department praised his officers and all the members of law enforcement who participated.
‘’When one thinks of a ‘cops and robbers shootout,’ one thinks of the movies or a late night television show, but when the shootout is for real and on your front lawn, people can get hurt. The final outcome on March 12, 2009 could have been very different with many innocent people getting hurt. Instead, because of training, experience, and overall excellent police work, we were able to neutralize the suspects without any residents or police officers being harmed,’’ Caputo said.
‘’I applaud the teamwork and camaraderie demonstrated between all of the departments involved and I commend the skill, bravery, and dedication each and every officer displayed as they pursued the offenders, eliminated the threat, and successfully apprehended each suspect and brought them to justice,’’ the director said.
In addition to the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office and New Brunswick police, authorities from North Brunswick, Franklin Township, the Somerset County Prosecutor’s Office and the FBI conducted investigations.