Police said the crowd became "unruly and argumentative" when officers tried to break up the gathering

By Ashley Boucher
April 02, 2020 05:37 PM
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More than a dozen people have been charged in New Jersey after gathering for a funeral attended by 70 people, in violation of the state’s stay-at-home order amid the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.

On Wednesday, 15 people were charged in Lakewood Township with violating any rule or regulation adopted by the governor during a state of emergency, according to a joint press release from Ocean County Prosecutor Bradley D. Billhimer and police Chief Gregory Meyer obtained by PEOPLE.

One individual was also charged with hindering his own apprehension after refusing to identify himself, according to the release.

Police received a call around 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday to a residence where between 60 and 70 people were gathered for a funeral.

On March 21, Governor Phil Murphy directed residents to stay at home, placing a ban on all social events, including funerals.

“In effort to strengthen the existing social distancing measures in place, the order also prohibits all gatherings of individuals, such as parties, celebrations, or other social events, unless otherwise authorized by the Order,” Murphy’s executive order states. “When in public, individuals must practice social distancing and stay at least six feet apart whenever possible, excluding immediate family members, caretakers, household members, or romantic partners.”

Officers began to disperse the crowd, but several people became “unruly and argumentative,” the release said, requiring the officers on-site to request backup.

Brooklyn, New York, resident Samuel Manheim, 27, was eventually identified as the individual who refused to identify himself to officers. According to authorities, Manheim gave officers on the scene a fake name and false Social Security number before finally being identified.

Those apprehended spanned a range of ages, from 18 to 64.

Other individuals who were charged included Brooklyn residents Joel Jakubowitz, 36, and Shimon Hus, 18, as well as Lakewood residents Marcus Strulovic, 43; David Kaf, 37; Moshe Friedman, 20; Nossom Strulovic, 25; Solomon Strulovic; Joel Strulovic, 39; Yosef Kohn, 35; Mitchell Strulovic, 24; Alexander Ellison, 64; Mordechi Strulovic, 18; Shimon Cardozo, 25; and Bernard Strulovic, 45.

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Billhimer said in a statement, “The Governor has banned all public gatherings during this state and national public health emergency. This ban applies to everyone.”

“To be blunt, ignoring the Governor’s Order places lives at risk — not just the lives of everyday citizens, but the lives of our brave men and women in Law Enforcement who are required to respond in order to break up these unlawful gatherings,” he continued. “I am imploring everyone to abide by the Governor’s Order and stay at home, so that we might all get through this very difficult time together — as painlessly as possible.”

New Jersey currently as the most confirmed cases of COVID-19 only after neighboring New York with 25,590 and 537 deaths related to the virus as of Thursday.

As information about the coronavirus pandemic rapidly changes, PEOPLE is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. Some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For the latest on COVID-19, readers are encouraged to use online resources from CDC, WHO, and local public health departments. To help provide doctors and nurses on the front lines with life-saving medical resources, donate to Direct Relief here.