Newark – Acting Essex County Prosecutor Theodore N. Stephens, II, announced today that John Searles, 23, of Edison was convicted by an Essex County jury of first-degree attempted murder and weapons offenses following a jury trial before the Honorable Verna Leath, Judge of the Superior Court.
Assistant Prosecutor Stephanie Faloyin, who tried the case, argued that Searles should be taken into custody immediately. Judge Leath, rejected that argument and released Searles with an ankle bracket.
The case arises from events that occurred on Sept. 22, 2016. West Orange Police were dispatched to a home on Lowell Place with a report of a shooting in progress. Once on the scene they discovered a man bleeding, suffering from numerous abrasions but no gunshot wounds.
The victim informed detectives that he had arrived home from his daughter’s back-to-school night event and drove his vehicle into the attached garage of his home. As he approached the front door of his residence, a male with a ski mask appeared from his driveway, ran towards him and fired multiple times at him. The victim ran at the suspect, tackled the suspect in the driveway of his residence, and the two fought.
During the altercation, the victim was able to grab a silver 9mm Ruger from the suspect and threw it into his rear yard. The gun was recovered as well as a bullet fragment and a 9mm live round.
During the fight, a second unknown male approached both parties and attempted to separate them. After a short period of time, the suspect and the second unknown male fled in a black Nissan Altima.
According to the victim, during the attack the suspect stated, “ you have $20,000.00 on your head,” an apparent reference to a bounty on the victim.
Even though the victim did not sustain a gunshot wound, the victim’s clothing was stained with blood and there was a bullet hole through his jacket near the pocket. The incident was captured on a surveillance camera and Searles’ DNA was on the victim’s clothing.
Yesterday, an Essex County jury found Searles guilty on all counts – first-degree attempted murder, second degree unlawful possession of a weapon, second degree possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose and fourth degree possession of a defaced firearm, said Assistant Prosecutor Faloyin.
Sentencing is scheduled for Aug. 12 before Judge Leath. When he is sentenced, Searles faces 20 years in New Jersey State Prison. Searles has a prior drug conviction. He was a convicted felon on probation at the time of the incident.