LAWRENCE: Mercer County freeholder urges increased police presence after series of armed assaults at Avalon Run

By James McEvoy, Special Writer
LAWRENCE — A Mercer County freeholder addressed municipal officials, requesting an increased police presence at Avalon Run apartments after a spate of armed robberies at the township complex.
At the Sept. 15 council meeting, Freeholder Lucylle R. S. Walter told the governing body she had visited the complex earlier in the day and had spoken with residents who want more of a police presence.
“There is not a presence (of police) being seen by the residents. They would like to see additional (police) cars in the area,” said Freeholder Walter, adding that while residents were provided flyers containing a police sketch of the suspect, they had not been posted within the complex itself.
Freeholder Walter added further she believed the township should hold a town hall or forum-type meeting with residents.
Mayor Cathleen Lewis emphasized that police are investigating the incidents and that both the township government and local police take the matter very seriously.
“There are many pieces of this puzzle and I think residents should be aware that the police are taking this very seriously and that there is going to continue to be increased attention made to that particular area,” Mayor Lewis said.
Mayor Lewis also thanked Freeholder Walter for her comments and said residents were welcome to reach out to anyone within the municipal government, though she stated none had reached out to her personally.
The most recent incident occurred shortly after 10 a.m. Sept. 14, when a resident at the complex answered a knock on his door only to be confronted by an intruder armed with a handgun, according to police.
The man, who is suspected in a separate attack earlier in the month at the complex, forced the victim and his roommates into a rear room of the apartment. The man left after approximately 10 minutes, but did not take anything, according to police. No one was harmed during the home invasion.
Police have said the residents told authorities the assailant matched a sketch of a man wanted in connection with the earlier assault in which a man similar knocked on a door at the apartment and forced himself inside.
In the earlier incident Sept. 9, the suspect forced the victim to drive to nearby bank and withdraw cash. The man then forced the victim to drive him into Trenton where he eventually fled from the vehicle with the money. Again, the victim was unharmed, according to police.
The man has been described as a black male in his early 20s, standing between 5 feet 10 inches to 6 feet tall, with a thin, but muscular build. He was described as having a medium-dark complexion and was clean-shaven.
At the time of the Sept. 14 assault, he was reportedly wearing a gray-hooded sweatshirt, black baseball hat, light-colored jeans and work boots.
Police are reportedly looking into whether the assaults may be related to an Aug. 12 armed assault at the complex where two men entered an unlocked sliding glass door before ransacking an apartment and holding a victim at knifepoint. Like the Sept. 9 incident, the victim was forced to drive to ATM machines to withdraw money.
The men then drove the victim to Trenton before fleeing the car on foot, leaving the victim unharmed. One of the two men, Righteous Laster, 19, of Trenton was later arrested and charged while his accomplice remains at large.
Anyone with information regarding this investigation should contact Detective. Robert Potter at 609-844-7123 or Detective Sgt. Joseph Lech IV at 609-844-7107, or by email atlawrencepolice@lawrencetwp.com. 