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In Aftermath Of Violent Weekend, Hartford Residents Question Police Efforts


June 12, 2012

HARTFORD —— Naomi McKoy remembers nephew Michael Bailey Jr. as the nice kid "everyone loved."

Bailey, a father of two who McKoy said graduated from Bloomfield High School and was working as a landscaper, was shot and killed on Ashley Street early Saturday.

A string of shootings over the weekend left Bailey and 16-year-old DaJon Walcott from Windsor dead, and nine others injured, police said. On Monday afternoon, police were investigating a report of another shooting in Keney Park in the North End.

Standing in front of a small memorial of candles, flowers and Bailey's photograph in the parking lot where he was shot, McKoy said Monday that Bailey was the kind of guy who "never had any issues with anybody."

"He was an excellent kid. He didn't deserve this," she said. "Somebody shot him for nothing."

Despite the spate of gunfire over the weekend, the number of shootings this year is about on par with previous years. There have been nearly 50 shootings in Hartford this year. By the first week of June in 2011, there had been 59 shootings; by the same time in 2010, there had been 51.

Before this weekend's violence, there had been six homicides in the city in 2012, compared with 17 in 2011 and 10 in 2010.

Mayor Pedro Segarra met with acting Police Chief James Rovella Monday morning to discuss the city's response. At least two of the shootings were believed to be connected, Segarra said, but he declined to say which shootings.

Despite the burst of violence, Segarra said Monday, the efforts of the police department and the city's shooting task force to reduce serious crime are working.

But several city residents were critical Monday of the police response to the violence.

Steve Harris, a retired Hartford firefighter and former city councilman who lives in the North End, questioned the department's commitment to community policing.

"I don't know if there are enough cops on the job, but there's more to community policing than a drive-by," Harris said. "When I see them standing on the street in my neighborhood, they're on a private-duty job."

Harris also noted the lack of a swift, public response to the shootings from the mayor's office or from Rovella during the weekend.

"We need the folks charged with protecting us to tell us 'we're on it,'" he said.

"I understand that law enforcement efforts are always ongoing," Segarra said on Monday. "This is a time for us to look at what's going on, analyze what's happening and [determine] what we need to do. We anticipated we needed to have a strategy for the summer and that strategy is being implemented."

Part of that strategy includes increasing police resources and finding new ways to deal with recently released prison inmates, he said.

For the past year, Rovella has served as the head of a shooting task force that has sought to reduce gun violence. He said the city "will provide an enhanced police presence."

But some city residents on Monday called the police "reactive" and said there's not enough of a presence in many of the neighborhoods, particularly the North End.

"To say there's policing — it's not happening," said George Milner, who lives on Ashley Street near the parking lot where Bailey's body was found. "As far as I'm concerned, the police aren't trying to stop anything. They're not out talking to anybody; they're not being proactive. They're sitting in their cars or driving through."

Milner, who grew up in the North End, left Hartford for about 20 years but moved back four years ago. He said the city is "moving backward, not forward."

"There's no improvement. There's no respect for the neighborhoods, for each other," he said Monday, sitting on his front porch. "That sense of family among neighbors — it's gone.

"I don't have any faith in this city changing."

The Rev. Henry Brown, a community activist who holds vigils for shooting victims in Hartford, said city officials need to do more than talk about the violence.

"By them having that meeting, that's not going to solve the problem," he said of Segarra's meeting Monday with Rovella. "They need to talk to the people and see what they can do. … Get the guns off the street. Get the people that are bringing the drugs and guns off the street, and you can end this."

Bailey, the first fatality of the weekend, was found in a parking lot at 99 Ashley St. at 2:15 a.m. Saturday with multiple gunshot wounds. He was pronounced dead at St. Francis Hospital and Medical Center.

In the midst of the gun violence Saturday night, Walcott was found around 11:30 p.m. at 102 Thomaston St., dead of multiple gunshot wounds.

Friends said he was walking to a party on Thomaston Street when he was shot.

"Somebody said the wrong thing to him, he said the wrong thing back and they shot him," said Myrick Walton, 19. "They took him in my face, I couldn't do anything about it. For me to start talking to him, him bleeding on the ground."

Walton and other friends who gathered on Thomaston Street Monday afternoon said Walcott moved to Connecticut from Washington, D.C., less then a year ago, after his mother died. They said repeatedly that he was smart and mature. He sometimes talked about the government's unfair treatment of black people and how money was the root of all evil, Walton said.

"DaJon was an educated little 16-year-old. He fed so much knowledge in my head. He taught me so much," Walton said. "This boy used to go to my house, me not saying anything, and he would talk for hours."

"I'm 19, I chilled with a 16 year-old because he acted like he's grown," Walton said.

Hartford police have asked for the public's help in solving the homicide, and Jeffrey A. Villar, superintendent of Windsor schools, said Monday that grief counselors were on hand for students coping with Walcott's death.

"We join the family and friends of this young man mourning the tragic loss of life," Villar said.

Other shootings included:

Two people shot near Franklin Avenue and Bond Street in the South End early Saturday.

Two men shot at 170 Capen St. in the North End early Saturday.

One man found shot on Garden Street around 2 a.m. Saturday. He told police he'd been shot in the back at the Sportsmen's Athletic Club at 2976 Main St.

A man shot in the shoulder early Sunday, less than an hour after Walcott was found, in the area of 1846 Main St. He did not cooperate with police.

A man shot in the left hip and leg in the parking lot behind the Sangria Bar and Grill at 900 New Britain Ave. just after 1 a.m. Sunday. A fight in the bar spilled outside, witnesses said.

Two people shot on Baltimore Street on Sunday evening. Shortly after 7 p.m., police found a man at 116 Baltimore St. with a gunshot wound. Authorities said Monday that there was a second victim in the Baltimore Street shooting. Both victims are expected to survive. Police said they found two vehicles in the area with bullet damage.

A man shot Monday afternoon at Keney Park. He had injuries that did not appear to be life-threatening, and a suspect has been identified, police said.

Several passersby stopped Monday at Bailey's memorial. Dozens of candles and bouquets of flowers were placed around a framed photograph of Bailey in a gravel parking lot on Ashley Street.

Friends said Bailey was a father of two young girls — a 3-year-old and a 2-year-old.

One friend, Jessica Spencer, described him as "respectful, loving and generous."

"Mike was someone you could turn to," Spencer said. "He was that ear that would listen, that advice you needed. He was a sweet man."

Luis Rodriguez, an acquaintance of Bailey's who stopped at the memorial, added: "He was always vibrant. I never saw him angry."

Segarra and his chief of staff, Jared Kupiec, said the community needs to help police with their efforts.

"It's critical to stress that we need the community to be a partner," Kupiec said. "If they have any information, no matter how small, about any of this weekend's incidents, we ask them to come forward to work with us to bring those who committed these crimes to justice."

Milner, of Ashley Street, said residents who live in the areas of the shootings would probably talk to police, but those involved in the crimes may be less inclined to speak.

"If they were to come to homeowners here, we would talk to them. I'm sure we would," he said. "These are good people here. But the street people — those are the very people that aren't going to talk to them."

To report information about the shootings, contact the police department's major crime division at 860-757-4089. Anonymous callers may contact the Crime Stoppers Tipline at 860-722-TIPS.

Staff writers Hilda Muñoz, Christine Dempsey, Steven Goode, Mikaela Porter, Hillary Federico and Rick Green contributed to this story.

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
| Last update: September 25, 2012 |
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