Irvington Police Continued Crime Crackdown Assists in Arrest of Suspects Wanted for Murdering Performing Artist

It was at approximately 1:30 PM on February 20th inside an apartment of a house in the 400 block of Grove Street in Irvington Township, where 24-year-old performing artist Mr. Daquan Smith relaxed on the floor after sharing a sandwich with his girlfriend and their child slept nearby.

According to a social media statement posted by Smith's girlfriend, the couple had just shared a large corn beef sandwich from Newark's famous Cooper's Restaurant and decided to rest. At the same time, the baby snoozed in the peace and comfort of the afternoon.

In the Township's neighborhood that closely borders Newark's West Ward on one end and The Garden State Parkway's southbound lanes several blocks away, Mayor Tony Vaus' FBI award-winning crackdown on crime in the area was underway. With police on patrol, seeking out criminal activity in the area, officers were making arrests of perpetrators who participated in “above the level of quality of life” crimes.

According to a statement released by the Essex County Prosecutor's Office, it was around 1:40 PM when Smith heard a knock at the door of his apartment that woke his baby and startled his girlfriend. To receive guests was considered odd for that time of day.

When the former Newark Arts High School graduate of Dance answered the door, a suspect, armed with a gun, was on the other side waiting with a weapon pointed at Smith, according to reports.

The unidentified male reportedly said nothing before pulling the trigger, with Smith's family looking on in horror.

Authorities said severely-injured Smith collapsed to the floor, and the suspect ran from the house in an unknown direction after the violent shooting.

Irvington Township police officers, who were already on patrol in the area, rushed to the scene and found several people outside crying hysterically, which forced them inside the residence. When they entered the apartment, they found Mr. Smith lying on the floor, unconscious and unresponsive after suffering a gunshot wound.

According to the Prosecutor's Office, Smith was pronounced dead at the scene at approximately 1:54 PM. Neither girlfriend nor baby were injured during the attack.

After an investigation and search of suspects that involved Irvington Police detectives and the Prosecutor's Office Major Crime's division, Mayor Tony Vaus said a three-year drop in crime and continued enforcement in the Grove Street corridor validated by the FBI Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Program would not go in vain for any violent offenses committed in Irvington - especially a homicide.

Mayor Vaus ordered the Township's Police Department to press forward in finding the assailant took Smith's life. Within days, Mayor Vaus announced an arrest of two Newark residents.

According to authorities, Mr. Lawrence Lewis and Ms. Lakirah Franklin Lewis, both with addresses in Newark, were taken into custody and charged with the following: Felony Murder, Robbery, Conspiracy, Possession of a Weapon, and Possession of a Weapon for Unlawful Purpose.

It is believed that Lawrence, who has resided at an address in the 400 block of Grove Street, pulled the trigger that ended Smith's life, but the Essex County Prosecutor's Office would not confirm which of the suspects fired the shot.

Officials would not say why the suspects chose Smith's apartment or if there are any connections between the three.

Mayor Tony Vaus sent condolences to the family of Smith and the entire performing arts community, while vowing justice for the family and community.

OPRA police reports and CAD records (obtained with the assistance from our legal team from Pashman, Stein, Walder, Hayden P.C. of Hackensack for RLS Media) showed that 2018, 2019, and the beginning of 2020 arrests in Irvington have shown a valiant police effort in the township, with confirmed arrests of suspects who committed crime in and around Grove Street.

"Our law enforcement has had a strong presence in Irvington, and crime has dropped in our township since 2017,” Vaus said in a statement.

"While any homicide in our township is disturbing and not tolerated, our police department has worked with the community to eradicate [the] criminal element in all of our neighborhoods," Vaus continued.

The Mayor and township police officials have received awards for the vast reduction in crime by NJ State Legislators, Senator Cory Booker and Congressman Donald Payne.

The funeral for Smith will be held Friday, February 28, 2020 with a viewing from 4:00-6:00 and the service to commence immediately after at Cotton Funeral Service, 1025 Bergen Street, Newark, NJ.

The investigation remains active and ongoing.