Lawyer: Man charged in Newburgh shooting “disarmed shooter”

Lawyer: Man charged in Newburgh shooting “disarmed shooter”

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GOSHEN – As Nija Johnson fired a pistol into the crowd at a Halloween party, Rainier Hamilton stepped in and disarmed him, Hamilton’s lawyer told a judge Wednesday in Orange County Court.

The Oct. 30 shooting left Tabitha Cruz, 20, and Omani Free, 18, dead and five other partygoers with serious injuries. Johnson, 17, of Newburgh faces murder and attempted murder charges.

Hamilton, 21, of Newburgh, was arraigned Wednesday in Orange County Court on a single felony count of tampering with physical evidence.

As deputies brought him into court, Hamilton nodded at Cruz’s family and gave a small wave to his mother and brother. Hamilton and Cruz had been seeing each other for a few weeks, and went to the party together.

Chief Assistant District Attorney Christopher Borek told Judge Craig Brown that security video from the crime scene “clearly shows this defendant carrying the weapon that was used in a double homicide and five other serious shootings,” and entering a back room alongside Johnson. The gun was found outside a window to that room.

Hamilton had initially been charged with a more serious gun felony, but following a grand jury presentation in which he testified, the indictment charges only the lower-level, non-violent evidence tampering.

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