ATLANTIC CITY — From his hospital bed at AtlantiCare Regional Medical Center, City Campus, 4th Ward Councilman MD Hossain Morshed detailed the brutal attack that left him injured, bloodied and scared for his life.
Morshed said Sunday night that six people were involved in Thursday’s attack on the corner of Florida and Atlantic avenues, threatening him while holding guns before beating him in the face.
Morshed said the confrontation was because the alleged suspects were upset with Morshed being among the members of City Council introducing an ordinance last month that would end the needle exchange program in the city.
Morshed, 47, said he was feeling better, but he suffered a broken nose and broken eye socket and his neck is in pain. He was scheduled to have surgery Monday morning to repair the broken bones.
“I thought this is my last moment, and I prayed,” Morshed recalled Sunday, looking back at how he was afraid he might die.
An investigation is ongoing, Atlantic City police most recently said Friday. A call made Sunday for an update on the investigation was not returned by press time.
The South Jersey AIDS Alliance has called on the state Office of Public Integrity and Accountability and state Office of the Attorney General to launch an investigation into the attack and said the group had nothing to do with the incident.
"The South Jersey AIDS Alliance does not condone violence of any kind and has never or would never use violent means for any reason.," the alliance said in a statement. "We wish Councilman Morshed a speedy and complete recovery," the alliance said in a statement."
The needle exchange program, which was the first to open in New Jersey in 2007, has long been debated by city officials. Council cast the first vote for an ordinance to repeal the program during a June 16 meeting. In a 7-2 vote, the members overwhelmingly supported getting rid of the needle exchange. Morshed was one of the seven in favor of ending the program. A final vote will be held this Wednesday.
Late Thursday night, Morshed left Masjid Al-Hera mosque on Atlantic Avenue. His car was parked in the parking lot on the corner of Florida and Atlantic.
“When I tried to get off of that parking lot to Florida Avenue, unfortunately one car blocked me,” he said. “It was dark, and I didn’t know what was going on. I get out of my car and was going to ask them why, ‘Why you guys block me?’”
Morshed said when he went to the other side of his vehicle, he saw a Black or Hispanic man carrying an assault weapon and a woman in shorts and a tied-up shirt holding an automatic revolver. Another man, whom Morshed described as Black or Hispanic, pulled up and blocked another exit. He, too, was carrying an assault weapon, and the vehicle he was driving had three other people in it also carrying guns, Morshed said.
Morshed said he was scared. One of the men stepped forward and said to him: “Don’t go against drug business. Don’t go against needle exchange. Don’t go with Sarkos.”
James Sarkos is the Atlantic City police interim Officer-in-Charge.
“I was scared and very politely I asked him, ‘This is not the right time to talk about this issue,’” Morshed said. He asked the person if he knew who he was, and the man began to curse at Morshed and said, “I don’t care (about) any councilmen,” Morshed said.
The man then struck Morshed in his left eye, then hit his nose. Morshed said he was struck five to seven times. Morshed fell to the ground, and was kicked several times by the other two people that were outside of the vehicle holding guns.
“They said two sentences: ‘This is a message for Atlantic City. This is a message for Atlantic City police,’” Morshed said.
Morshed said blood was coming out of his nose, ears and eyes, and his shirt was bloodied. As he laid there, he was afraid he would never see his family again, Morshed recalled as he got emotional. Morshed has a wife and three children.
The last thing Morshed said he remembered was attempting to climb into his vehicle but falling out. Police responded to the scene around 10:45 p.m. Morshed did not say Sunday night who dialed 911. He said he didn’t regain his senses until early Friday morning.
Morshed said safety for himself and other council members has always been a concern. He said he received numerous phone calls last week from people who didn’t want to see an end to the needle exchange program. It is run out of the Oasis Drop-In Center on Tennessee Avenue in the city’s Tourism District.
City Council President George Tibbitt said he is very concerned for the safety of himself and the council. He said in all his time as a member of the council since 2006 has never seen something like this happen to one of its members.
“Morshed is a very aggressive council member in trying to make a change for this city,” Tibbitt said Sunday outside of the hospital.
“It’s very upsetting to see (Morshed) in this condition. ... It’s very scary. To do it to a council member and to do it to anybody. We have to stick together.
Tibbitt emphasized that state government has to look at Thursday’s attack on Morshed as “a serious problem the city is facing from outsiders. From them pushing an overabundance of social services (like the needle exchange) on one town vs. spreading it out and getting these people home to their community so their community can help them.”
Morshed was thankful for the help he received from Atlantic City police, AtlantiCare staff and the support from the rest of the council.
Morshed said the assault would not change his stance on the needle exchange program, and that he plans to vote to shut it down Wednesday.
“We have to clean our Atlantic City and make Atlantic City livable for every resident,” he said.
Contact John Russo: 609-272-7184