PATERSON – With his family’s groceries in his trunk, 18-year-old honor student Robert Cuadra parked his red Nissan directly in the middle of two groups of men who moments later started shooting at each other, according to court records.
Cuadra took cover behind his car as the gunfight started, a battle in which 23 bullets from at least four weapons were exchanged, the court records indicated.
One of the combatants – wearing a black and gray jacket with a black stripe — was walking toward his adversaries, firing at them as they shot back from the front of a nearby house, said the court records. Cuadra was hiding in the man's path. The documents then described the fatal shot, which they said was recorded by a surveillance camera.
“His muzzle drops and the victim sustains a gunshot wound to the head as he drops to the ground,” said the court documents, providing no further explanation.
Court officials on Friday released those documents, affidavits of probable cause that were part of the murder charges filed against three young men accused of killing Cuadra.
The documents provided numerous new details about the case, including allegations that one of the suspects made a jailhouse phone call on the day after the killing to direct someone on the outside to move a white Nissan Maxima that contained a jacket that allegedly matched one worn by the suspected shooter.
The documents also make it clear that multiple participants in the shootout as well as other possible accomplices remain at large.
“We are in pursuit of those other individuals,” said Mayor Andre Sayegh.
But the mayor also said that investigators have told him that the man suspected of firing the shot that killed Cuadra was among the three currently in custody — Jaquin Williams, 19, from Paterson; Kahaz D. Heron, 18, from Clifton; and Jahed Jones, 19, from Paterson. Besides murder, the three were charged with conspiracy to commit murder and weapons possession, prosecutors said.
Paterson Special Investigations detectives arrested Williams, Heron and Jones on Jan. 19, four hours after the homicide, after officials said they were stopped in a reported stolen car and two guns were found inside.
None of the dozens of pages of court documents released on Friday say exactly what caused the dispute behind the shootout that claimed the life of the noncombatant who was caught in the middle of it all.
The court records said surveillance cameras recorded two cars – the white Nissan Maxima and a blue Honda Accord – driving through the streets of Paterson’s 4th Ward shortly before the shootings. The Maxima and Accord eventually pulled onto Godwin Avenue and stopped in separate locations at about 6:30 p.m., the documents said.
Cuadra was the only person shot during the battle, officials said. Eventually, the four men got back inside the blue Honda, which drove off, followed by the white Nissan, the records said.
Eventually, the two cars ended up on Piercy Street in the 1st Ward, when the four men abandoned the blue Honda as two of them got inside the Nissan and two others entered a third vehicle, a 2019 Toyota Corolla, the court records said. It turned out the Honda, police said, had been stolen in Paterson the day before the shooting.
At 10:25 p.m. that same night, Paterson detectives stopped the Corolla and arrested Williams, Heron and Jones on charges involving the car being stolen the day before in Clifton, as well as gun possession charges, the records said.
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On Jan. 24, police stopped the white Nissan Maxima on Jefferson Street in the 1st Ward, the records said. The car was being driven by a man who said he got a call from Heron in jail telling him to go get the vehicle, the records said.
Detectives subpoenaed Heron’s jail phone records, confirming he called someone on the outside about the Nissan, the records said. A black and gray jacket with a black stripe, which authorities say matched the one worn by the man who fatally shot Cuadra, was inside the Nissan, according to court records.
Williams, Heron and Jones were charged with murder on Jan. 27, while still being held in Passaic County Jail on the stolen car and gun charges, officials said.
The mayor said he contacted Cuadra’s mother, Ivernis Santiago, on Thursday morning about the arrests. She declined to comment about the arrests.
“Just thanks for all the hard work everyone is doing for my son,” said the grieving mother.
This article originally appeared on NorthJersey.com: Robert Cuadra killed hiding from gunfight, records show