Courthouse protest planned as state appeals release of driver in Absecon crash that killed child

javi protest

The family of a Philadelphia boy is asking for the public’s help in protesting the release of the Egg Harbor City man accused of killing the 8-year-old in an Absecon crash this summer.

Javi Velez had gone to sleep in the back seat as his father and younger brother packed up the vehicle from fishing off Absecon Boulevard on July 23.

That’s when Edward Johnston came down Absecon Boulevard drunk, high and reaching 107 mph, according to the allegations. He crashed into the vehicle, trapping Javi inside.

The child died at the scene.

A four-month investigation led to Johnston’s arrest Nov. 16, on a charge of first-degree aggravated manslaughter

The state moved to detain him, but Judge Donna Taylor found that his lack of criminal history and conditions that included revoking his driver’s license overcame the presumption of detention that comes with the first-degree charge.

But before Johnston could be released, the Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office got the judge to grant a stay as an appeal was filed.

It’s not clear when that decision will be made, but Javier Velez’s family does not want to wait to have their voices heard.

“We we want to make a statement to New Jersey before the appeal date even happens,” Javi’s mother, Kaylah Smith, told BreakingAC.

A protest is planned for 1 p.m. Tuesday in front of the Atlantic County Criminal Courthouse at 4997 Unami Blvd. in Mays Landing.

“This is our only chance,” Smith said.

If Johnston is released, she fears there will be nothing to be done until trial, which could take a year.

“We cannot allow this killer to be free in the streets after what he’s done,” she said in a Facebook post calling for people to join the peaceful protest. “I need help. I need the support. I NEED YOUR VOICE!

“Javier is not here with us anymore to speak for himself! WE MUST DO IT FOR HIM,” she added.

State Sen. Vincent Polistina will be there as well, Smith said.

Polistina posted about his shock at the decision to release Johnston on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter.

“How can this happen?” he wrote. “This is torture for the parents who lost an 8 year old child going into the holidays.”