Edward Forchion said he didn't fully react as bullets started flying early Sunday morning at the Art All Night festival in Trenton. But a half hour later, he realized several people surrounding him had been shot.

By then, the 54-year-old Trenton resident and activist for marijuana legalization had made a video documenting the chaos and terror that followed the gunshots inside the Roebling Wire Works.

"Everybody froze like deers in headlights. Then everybody started moving," he said of the moments right after the first shots. "[Police] started moving towards the door. Then they started shooting."

>> READ MORE: Gunmen ID'd in Trenton arts festival shooting that left 1 dead, 22 injured

Forchion doesn't think he moved quickly enough.

"I was 25 feet away from them. I don't know if you've been that close to a gunshot, but the air moves," he said. "I could feel percussion of the shots."

Ed Forchion, also known as NJ Weedman, with his restaurant partner and girlfriend, Debi Madaio in 2017.
File photo
Ed Forchion, also known as NJ Weedman, with his restaurant partner and girlfriend, Debi Madaio in 2017.

It was not the experience Forchion expected when he set out for the annual festival, his fifth in its 12-year history. He appreciates how the event pulls together people from various social strata in the area. Forchion saw this year's festival as an opportunity to distribute flyers for his state Assembly bid. He's running in the 15th district as an Independent.

As he was enjoying the art and music inside the red brick warehouse, Forchion said he heard one man arguing with several others.

"The guy was saying that other dude disrespected him," recalled Forchion. The man who was most upset, he said, sounded like he had been incarcerated and was disappointed with the other men for not looking after a family member.  "He kept saying 'We're family. And you didn't take care of my sister. And now she's lost.'"

The man's tone wasn't particularly nasty, and Forchion didn't expect matters to escalate. He turned his attention to a door at the back of the venue as an event staffer was closing it. A group of teens muscled their way through, he said, causing a stir.

Forchion didn't see who shot first. He's not positive whether it came from the group that was having a dispute or the young people rushing the door. Police had been in the crowd of festival-goers, he said, when the first bullets flew. To Forchion's ear, they sounded like they came from a .45-caliber gun.

Forchion said a man who ran past him was shot by police. On the video Forchion later captured, the man can be seen lying in the street.

"One [cop] went around him and asked him to stay down," said Forchion. "He was just wiggling like he was in pain. He was panicking."

Initially, Forchion questioned whether the man who was shot had a weapon, but on his video, he later saw police recover a gun. It is not clear whether that man was one of the suspected gunmen who was the only reported fatality. In all, 17 people were shot; an additional five injured, mostly from falling in the rush to flee.

While Forchion said he believes many people were injured by police gunfire, he emphasized that he's not passing judgment on law enforcement's handling of the scene.

"It's easy to be a cop-hater and be second-guessing. But I was standing right there," he said. "I don't think it was abusive. I think it was chaotic."

Forchion is concerned that the shooting won't receive its due attention in the national conversation.

"It gets portrayed as gang members shooting gang members. Drug dealers shooting drug dealers. Black-on-black crime. That's how it's going to be and it's going to die down in two or three days," he said. "This is our Parkland. This is our Columbine. [Black communities] don't have mass shootings in schools. They have them at clubs and gatherings."

The activist said he's hoping that young people in town will mobilize, following the example of  students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. As for him, he's still sorting through what would be the best way forward.

"I'm trying to think of something prophetic to say, but I'm at a loss for words," Forchion said. "Senseless. How many times do you hear people say, 'It's senseless'?"