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Authorities Charge Convicted Murderer, Other Inmates Who Set Fires In Passaic County Jail Riot

Zamaire Barden (left), Kassiem McKinney (right)
Zamaire Barden (left), Kassiem McKinney (right) Photo Credit: FILE PHOTOS

Authorities filed charges against a convicted murderer and five other inmates subdued by sheriff's officers after they set fires to bedsheets during a weekend riot at the Passaic County Jail.

What became a six-hour ordeal began Saturday night when two inmates refused to lock into their cells, Passaic County Sheriff Richard H. Berdnik said. Things escalated when others became non-complaint, as well, he said.

The sheriff himself joined officers in trying to calm the situation, but some of the inmates ignited fires to bedsheets and continued defying orders, he said.

Shortly before 11 p.m., officers in tactical gear stormed the housing unit at the Marshall Street jail in Paterson and doused the combatants with pepper spray while subduing them, Berdnik said.

Charged with rioting, arson and aggravated assault:

  • Zamaire Barden , 22, of Paterson ( above left ), a drug-dealing murderer who was sentenced to 30 years without parole last month for shooting and killing a buyer from Warwick and injuring his passenger in April 2015;
  • Kassiem McKinney , 27, of Paterson ( above, right ), who’s been held since last October after police charged him with being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm , among other offenses;
  • Sammy Cromartie , 22, who’s been held since last November on robbery and weapons charges for a holdup spree;
  • Jeffrey Dixon , 52, of Passaic, been held since last June on robbery charges;
  • Terrel Finley , 20, of Passaic, who’s been held since January 2019 on charges of robbery, aggravated assault, criminal restraint, hindering and weapons possession while on probation;
  • Tariq Rocklacy , 24, of Newark, who’s charged with robbery, aggravate assault and weapons charges, among other offenses.

Barden hadn't yet been transferred to a state prison because of a hold on such movements in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

All six inmates were separated from general population, the sheriff said.

“Although this was an unfortunate incident, at no point was the stability of the jail compromised,” Berdnik said.

His officers “showed true professionalism” and “were able to conclude this situation without any serious injury or damage to the facility,” the sheriff said.

“I want to personally thank each of them for their efforts,” he said.

Berdnik also thanked Paterson firefighters for their assistance.

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