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Statement from Ocean County Prosecutor Bradley D. Billhimer

Ocean County

The events that transpired in Buffalo, N.Y. this past weekend were horrific and tragic. Unfortunately, these mass shootings have become far too common. We must resist the tendency for these horrific acts to become routine.

All lives have value, none of us are expendable. Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and the families of those that perished due to the senseless acts of violence that occurred in Buffalo on Saturday.

We stand shoulder to shoulder with the brave men and women in law enforcement in Buffalo that were able to subdue the shooter and prevent further bloodshed.

When, like the events in Buffalo, the shooter is motivated by hate and animus, it becomes even more difficult to fathom and process. It is imperative that we reject hate and bias in all of its’ insidious forms.

As the Chief Law Enforcement Officer in Ocean County, I have made it very clear that acts of bias intimidation will not be tolerated and every allegation regarding a bias incident or crime will be investigated and, if warranted, prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. We will do everything in our power to protect the most vulnerable members of our communities.

At this point in time I have had the opportunity to read and digest what has been referred to as the shooter’s one hundred and eighty-page “manifesto.”

While Federal and New York State law enforcement officials are still working to verify this document’s authenticity, the document includes despicable anti-Semitic, white supremacist and radicalized racist memes and tropes with repeated references to “replacement theory.”

A reference in the document to Lakewood and Toms River raised concerns locally here in Ocean County. The Ocean County Prosecutor’s High-Tech Crime Unit has been able to discern that these references to Lakewood and Toms River were copied by the shooter and incorporated into his “manifesto’ from a 2020 article written and published on the internet by a different author.

This theme rings true with the majority of the “manifesto,” as it includes numerous references that were either copied and/or cut and pasted from other sources on the internet. Large portions of this “manifesto” were actually copied from the Christchurch shooter’s 2019 manifesto.

I can state, unequivocally, that there is no evidence that the shooter had any intention or inclination to travel to anywhere in Ocean County. Furthermore, based on what we know at this time, the shooter has no ties to New Jersey. I have confirmed this information with the New Jersey State Police Regional Operations Center and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

As a lifelong resident of Ocean County, I can certainly understand how the mention of two of our local municipalities in such a misguided and dangerous document could raise concern.

To that end, I have spoken with Lakewood Township Police Chief Gregory Meyer and Toms River Township Police Chief Mitch Little and I can assure residents of Lakewood and Toms River that although there is no implied or explicit threat to these communities, law enforcement stands ready to respond to any critical incident that may arise.

Additionally, the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office and the Ocean County Sheriff’s Office will work around the clock to ensure that all of our residents feel safe in their respective communities. Our State and Federal law enforcement partners have offered their assistance as well.

We will remain vigilant against acts of violence based on hate or bias. As parents, children, friends and neighbors we must continue to stand up to hate and condemn acts of violence based on the color of someone’s skin, how they worship or who they love.