September 14, 2013 Trenton, New Jersey – Nearly one year after a Mercer County corrections officer was caught in the crossfire of a possible gang-related shooting, a grand jury formally charged two Trenton men with his murder.
The grand jury returned a six-count indictment on Wednesday, charging Maurice Skillman and Hykeem Tucker with the murder of Carl Batie, a Willingboro resident.
The two also were indicted on charges of second-degree possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose, second-degree unlawful possession of a handgun and three counts of fourth-degree aggravated assault for pointing a firearm at three additional victims, a news release from the Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office said.
On Nov. 11, 2012, 26-year-old Batie attended a party celebrating President Barack Obama’s re-election at the Baldassari Regency banquet hall on Morris Avenue in Trenton. He was in a crowd of about 30 people on the restaurant’s balcony at 1:15 a.m. when Skillman, 27, allegedly opened fire on the crowd with Tucker, 26, at his side.
One of the 22 bullets fired into the crowd struck Batie in the head, killing him almost instantly, officials said at the time.
“The motive in this case appears to be gang-related,” Mercer County First Assistant Prosecutor Angelo Onofri said in December. “However, it is clear from an exhaustive investigation that Officer Batie was not the target of the shooting. He was an innocent bystander.”
In March, sources told The Times that the target of the shooting was Curtis Brittingham, an alleged high-ranking gang member who was indicted on three separate manslaughter charges in 2012. Brittingham was among the people attending the party.
Following Batie’s death, the state Policemen’s Benevolent Association and Trenton Crime-Stoppers offered rewards for information. The prosecutor’s office yesterday said the indictments followed a lengthy investigation, led by Trenton police detectives and the prosecutor’s office, with multiple interviews, surveillance video reviews and enhancements from NFL Films.
A Trenton Central High School graduate, Batie was a five-year veteran of the Mercer County Corrections unit and, following the shooting, neighbors and coworkers remembered him as a dedicated officer with a professional and polite disposition. Batie’s youngest brother, 17-year-old Khalil, donned a basketball jersey with the No. 3 on it in honor of his older brother, who played for Trenton Catholic Academy during his senior year.
“You’re going out with your friends and now you have to be more vigilant about your surroundings,” Khalil Batie told The Times in February.
“Before that, I was always out. In my mind, nothing could happen to me. My mother would tell me that there’s bad people out there and that while they may not be out there to hurt you, they might. What happened to my brother hit right at home.”