By Trang Do

EDGEWATER PARK, N.J. (CBS) — A birthday celebration in Edgewater Park, Burlington County turned deadly, when two men attending the gathering were shot and killed early Sunday morning.

“I just want justice for my two friends,” Donte Benns said.

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Benns was hosting a small group of family and friends on the 200 block of Dogwood Road, when an unknown person or persons fired shots at the home just before 1 a.m.

“Everyone that was on this side of the house started ducking, glass started shattering, everything,” Benns said. “And that’s when I realized, holy crap.”

At least 23 bullets struck the house. Marcus Thompson, 28, of Willingboro, was shot and killed.

“He got hit and I didn’t know what to do,” Benns said. “I tried to help him and at the same time, I’m trying to save myself, and I told him to hold on and that’s when I called 911. I came back upstairs and watched my friend take his last breath.”

Benns then went outside to find that another friend, James Gist III, 29, of Westampton, had been shot to death while sitting in his car. The Burlington County Prosecutor’s Office and Edgewater Park Police are still searching for suspects and a motive, while neighbors remain stunned.

“I was just shocked,” said Larry Anderson, who has lived in the neighborhood for nearly six decades. “We never have shootings here.”

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Benns described Gist as a father of two who was getting ready to start a trucking business with him. He said Thompson was about to launch his own clothing line and leaves behind three children. Benns said he’s struggling with guilt for hosting the get-together.

“I wish, I wish, I could get it back,” he said. “I wish I never had this. I’m very sorry to the family, they’ve got to go through this. I’m sorry for the kids, the kids got to grow up without a father. They were great men. They were definitely role models to me. I definitely looked up to them.”

Anyone with information that might help investigators is asked to call Burlington County Central Communications at 609-265-7113 or send an email to tips@co.burlington.nj.us.

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