TRENTON, N.J. - More than 28 hours after police first arrived on the scene of a home on Grand Street in the city's South Ward, hostage negotiators continued attempting to coax an armed man into releasing the three children he is believed to have inside.
The man, who was not identified but is known in the neighborhood as "Skip," killed his girlfriend and one of her five children, said South Ward Councilman George Muschal, based on information from his former law enforcement colleagues.
Angelo J. Onofri, the first assistant Mercer County prosecutor, said in a press briefing Saturday night that police were "in constant contact" with the suspect.
Muschal, who had served on the Trenton police force, said the man's girlfriend had not shown up to work, one of the first indications that something was amiss in the home.
Her children hadn't been to school in two weeks, Muschal said.
Officers were dispatched to check on the family; when they arrived around 3 p.m. Friday at the brick South Trenton home where the girlfriend lived, they saw a man with a gun in the window. After going around to the back and up the stairs, Muschal was told, they found the house "loaded with maggots."
There was some sort of encounter and the officers spoke with the man at that time, Muschal said, then retreated safely and called for reinforcements, including a SWAT team.
State Police Sgt. Adam Grossman confirmed that the agency was providing a SWAT team, arson bomb unit, K-9 bomb unit, and hostage negotiators at the scene. The FBI, Trenton Fire Department, Mercer County Prosecutor's Office, and Mercer County Sherriff's Office were also on the scene assisting the city force.
The man's identity has not been released, and police have declined to give details on the hostages or the standoff.
The hostages are three of the girlfriend's children, Muschal said he was told. Another child, who is autistic, is not in the home, Muschal said. The suspect is not the father of any of the children, said his friend, Daniel Estevez, 22.
"Active efforts to bring a resolution to this matter" continue, more than 28 hours after the "active hostage situation" began, said Onofri. "The concept is to negotiate a peaceful surrender."
Four nearby homes were evacuated Friday night for residents' safety, he said.
Scores of onlookers were gathered outside the cordoned-off police zone, many with phones out as they looked in the direction of the house. Several of the neighbors said the man, known as "Skip," worked a security job at a store on nearby South Broad Street and could often be seen walking his two pit bulls.
"I talked to him, he was really nice. I don't know what's going on," said Rodney Simmons, 40.
When Sonia Reyes, 59, walked up and agreed — "He's a very nice man, I can't believe it." — Simmons asked whether she knew the man.
Reyes' instant response reflected the way he is known: "Skip with two dogs!"
According to the Associated Press family members of the girlfriend went under police tape late Saturday afternoon and briefly confronted officers, angry that the standoff has dragged on.
Police declined to comment on whether the man had made demands. Muschal said he was told the man asked Friday for food, which police agreed to if he would release one of the children. The man declined, Muschal said, so no food was delivered.