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Paramedic Recounts Horrific Scene After Schoolyard Shootout

The Star-Leger via YellowBrix

May 03, 2010

NEWARK, NJ – Derron Brice was a Navy Corpsman for eight years and has a Desert Storm ribbon. He has been a paramedic for UMDNJ in Newark for four years.

He has seen trauma from gunshots, schrapnel, blunt force; all the things, as he says in paramedic vernacular, make “bodies no longer viable.” He has seen his share of such bodies. On the night of Aug. 4, 2007, he was the first responder to the Mount Vernon School, where he saw four more.

On Wednesday, as he testified in the trial of Rodolfo Godinez, the first of six defendants in the schoolyard murders, Derron Brice was prepared to recount his actions on that night. Previous coverage:

• Paramedic who tended to lone survivor in Newark schoolyard shootings thought she was dead

• In Newark schoolyard shootings trial, resident describes hearing victim plea for mercy

• Survivor of Newark schoolyard shootings is expected to testify

• Lawyers lay out different scenarios in Newark schoolyard slayings case

• Attorney argues defendant is ‘borderline retarded,’ played no role in Newark schoolyard shootings

• Archived coverage of the Newark schoolyard killings But he wasn’t prepared to re-live them.

After a few minutes of testimony in which Brice spoke in direct technical medical terms, he was shown a photograph of the murder scene.

“Do you recognize this picture?” prosecutor Thomas McTigue asked.

Brice paused, and lowered his voice.


He cleared his throat, and ran his fingers over his eyes. The momentum of his testimony faltered. His linebacker-sized shoulders hunched-up as he composed himself.

“Yes. The three dead bodies. The three dead bodies that were found at Mount Vernon school.”

After his testimony, Brice said he “tried to hide” his emotions.

“But the carnage … it’s ugly,” he said.

On the night of the murders, Brice reacted like he always does. With “tunnel vision,” he said outside the courtroom. “You have to compartmentalize. You put it aside, and get the job done.”

On Aug. 4, 2007, the job was to save the life of Natasha Aeriel.

During his testimony, Brice spoke of moving over the bodies of Dashon Harvey, Iofemi Hightower, and Terrence Aeriel, Natasha’s brother.

“We assessed what life may have remained in those bodies,” he testified. “We checked the carotid pulse, the pupils of the eyes. We realized those bodies were no longer viable.”

EKG electrodes were attached to check for any “electrical impulses left in the heart.” That proceeded the “unofficial pronouncement of death.”

He then testified how he moved on to “Miss Aeriel.”

“She had a wound behind her left ear. I thought it was another lifeless body,” he said. “Her pulse was so faint, I thought she had none. She had faint, shallow respirations that were almost undiscernable. I thought she was dead.”

A cervical collar was put on her neck. An IV started. She was intubated: a tube passed down her trachea to “so we could breath for her,” Brice said.

Natasha Aeriel drifted in and out of consciousness. At one point she said something about “her brother,” Brice testified, but he could not recall her exact words.

“At that point, I was more focused on saving her life.”

And now, nearly three years later, he must re-live it, like everyone else connected to this case.

Before Wednesday’s testimony, Superior Court Judge Michael L. Ravin warned about graphic content of exhibits and testimony, and asked those in attendance not to audibly express “shock, grief or sorrow.”

“You must do whatever you must do to control you emotions in front of this jury to protect the integrity and fairness of this trial,” he said.

But then, like Wednesday, comes the profound horror of it all. Four college students, shot at the base of the skulls, for no reason. As if there could be a reason. The violence, the waste of life, and loss of promise, can be too much, even for a battle veteran like Derron Brice.

“You see these things, and you put them away,” he said outside the court. “You don’t re-visit it. Here, I’m forced to re-visit it.”

Newark schoolyard killing trial prosecutor opening statements

Newark schoolyard killing trial opening statements