Death in Newark leaves questions about PD procedure

January 12, 2010 8:43:17 PM PST
New Jersey police are investigating a mysterious death in Newark, and it is possible responding officers missed the victim's body hours before she was discovered. Witnesses say it was just after 8:45 p.m. Monday night when shots rang out during a gun battle between unknown rivals along 16th Avenue, just outside Manny's Liquors.

"The people started shooting," clerk Valerio Rodriguez said. "[Cunningham] had been inside, but she was going to her car and got stuck in the middle."

Police say the 55-year-old Karen Cunningham suffered a gunshot wound to the shoulder, but she was not discovered inside a vehicle parked near South 13th Street Tuesday morning. It is believed that she was getting into her car and got caught in the crossfire.

Her family is grieving, but there is anger too.

"For her to be overlooked and out there, there is something terribly wrong with the police department," the victim's sister, Aishah Wah, said.

Wah and the victim's daughter told Jeff Pegues that they want to know why Newark police didn't notice Cunningham in the car on Tuesday night while they were investigating a shooting.

Shortly before she was shot, she was in a corner store.

"The police came to the area and they missed the car. Never went to the car to see what happened." Valerio Rodriguez said.

She wasn't found until morning, twelve hours after the shooting, and by then it was too late.

Already an investigation is underway to determine, why officers responding to reports of gunfire didn't find Cunningham.

Law Enforcement sources say shell casings were discovered at the scene, but for some reason police didn't find the victim who had been shot in the shoulder.

Police have been scrambling to explain whether procedures were followed.

Prosecutor's are now investigating along with internal affairs, while the officers involved have been put on administrative duty.

At issue -- Were police complacent when they arrived on the scene? Did they investigate or not?

The victim's daughter has questions of her own.

"Why it happened? Who did it? What steps can be taken to get justice?" Shonda Cunningham said.

Justice for her mother, who's death is raising questions about the police response.

Authorities have neither identified a suspect nor motive in the incident. Anyone with information about this incident or any other criminal activity or wanted persons to call the Department's 24-hour CrimeStoppers anonymous tip line at 877-NWK-TIPS (877 695-8477) or NWK-GUNS (877 695-4867).