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Hartford: Jashon Bryant's Family Gathers At His Grave On His Birthday


December 10, 2009

HARTFORD — - Every year, family and friends gather at Jashon Bryant's grave in the city's North End to mark his birthday.

Emotions ran especially high during the visit Wednesday, a day after a jury acquitted former Hartford Det. Robert Lawlor of manslaughter and assault charges in the May 2005 shooting of Bryant, 18.

"It's happy for me 'cause I had him, and it's harmful for me 'cause I can't give him the gift of justice," said Cynthia Bryant, his mother. "There's been pretty strong emotions over the last four years, but yesterday knocked me off my feet."

Relatives held artificial candles and bowed their heads over the black gravestone in Spring Grove Cemetery. They joined in singing "Happy Birthday" and reciting prayers. Debbie Gillespie, Bryant's aunt, sang "It's Another Day That The Lord Has Kept Me."

Some of them knelt to plant kisses on the gravestone.

"It's not over yet, Jay. We're still gonna be here as one family," Victor Ellison, Cynthia Bryant's fiancé, said.

The family has expressed frustration over the absence of black jurors in Lawlor's trial.

"It's almost 2010 and there's still no justice for black people in America," said David Gaines, Jashon Bryant's uncle. "I didn't see no people on that jury from my neighborhood, at my grocery store."

He leaned against a car and wept as the others huddled around the grave.

"He was a good kid. Jay didn't get in no trouble," Gaines continued. "He put other people first."

Shirin Bryant, 26, said she wishes Lawlor would apologize for her brother's death.

Lawlor has insisted he didn't make a mistake when he opened fire at Bryant and Brandon Henry on the evening of May 7, 2005. Bryant died of two gunshot wounds to the head. Henry survived a bullet to the chest.

Lawlor told police he saw Bryant with a gun that day and thought Bryant was reaching for a gun when Lawlor approached the car that Bryant and Henry were in. A gun was never found.

Shirin Bryant approached Lawlor outside Superior Court Tuesday, demanding an apology.

"I wanted him to feel my pain," she said. "I can tell my brother 'Happy Birthday' now, but he can't talk back."

Still hoping for closure, family members said they want to see the case go to the Supreme Court.

"The verdict was not right," Gaines said. "We put our faith in something that didn't work for us."

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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