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Arrest made after N.J. veteran killed protecting girlfriend during carjacking

Investigators from the Maplewood Police Department and the Essex County Prosecutor's Office work the scene of a homicide. (Steve Hockstein/

Authorities on Thursday announced they arrested a man wanted for killing a U.S. Navy veteran, who family members say was shot as he protected his girlfriend during a carjacking in East Orange last month.

James Lewis, 51, was charged with murder in the shooting of Troy Traynham, Acting Essex County Prosecutor Theodore N. Stephens, II, and East Orange Police Chief Phyllis Bindi said in a joint statement.

Polk County sheriff’s deputies located Lewis on Tuesday at a residence in Winter Haven, a central Florida city about 50 miles east of Tampa, the prosecutor and police chief said.

Lewis is accused of shooting Traynham as the 59-year-old helped a woman unload groceries from her car outside his Chestnut Street apartment in East Orange on Sept. 18, according to an account from the prosecutor’s office.

“It is alleged that Lewis shot Traynham and carjacked the woman,” officials said in the statement.

Traynham died at University Hospital shortly before 5 p.m. the day of the attack, according to authorities. After the shooting, Lewis fled to Florida, the prosecutor’s office said.

Lewis was being held there ahead of extradition to New Jersey, according to the prosecutor’s office. It was not immediately clear if he had an attorney who could comment on the case.

In a statement, Traynham’s family said he was killed as he protected his girlfriend during the holdup.

Traynham served with the Navy and in an agency formerly called the Defense Investigative Service, which conducted various personnel security investigations under the Department of Defense, his obituary said.

He most recently worked as a security specialist and chef for hotels and restaurants in New York and New Jersey, according to his obituary.

“Troy was a wonderful son, brother, uncle, cousin and friend,” family members wrote.

“He would always go out of his way to help others. He was charming, intelligent and loved to put a smile on someone’s face,” the family’s statement added.


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