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Frustration For Families After Acquittal Of Detective

JENNA CARLESSO

December 11, 2009

HARTFORD - In a peaceful call for justice, family members of two men shot by a city police detective in May of 2005 assembled in front of city hall Thursday to reflect on a jury's decision this week to acquit the detective of manslaughter and assault charges.

The parents of Jashon Bryant, who died of two gunshot wounds to the head, and the mother of Brandon Henry, who was shot in the chest but survived, said they are still seeking justice the court system didn't provide.

"We're not finished with this," Brenetta Henry, Brandon's mother, said. "My son will never forget what happened. He'll never be the same."

On Tuesday, a jury acquitted former Hartford police Det. Robert Lawlor of charges relating to Bryant's death. Lawlor told police he saw the 18-year-old Bryant with a gun on May 7, 2005, and thought Bryant was reaching for the firearm when he approached the car Bryant and Henry were in. No gun was found.

"People don't know about the nights he can't sleep, when he's jumping up in a cold sweat," Brenetta Bryant said of her son.

"He saw Jashon's brains sprayed on the seat that day. Physically he's fine, but mentally he'll never be OK."

Family members have said they were frustrated over the lack of minority representation on the jury.

"It was not Robert Lawlor that was on trial, it was everybody in the [city's] North End," said the Rev. Henry Brown, who helped organize the rally.

"There's no hope in the justice system for people of color. As citizens of Hartford, we are supposed to be judged fairly ... as human beings."

Brown spoke to the small crowd through a bullhorn as supporters held hands in a circle around him. Others stood with signs reading, "One City, One Hartford ... One Justice."

Keith Thomas said he and Jashon Bryant's mother did their part to keep their children safe.

"We thought the police department took them out of harm's way on the street," he said. "In reality, they [caused] more harm.

"I will never give up on my kids," he continued. "Just because they do things in the community, it doesn't mean they're bad kids. As a family, we're still going to walk with our heads up high."

The rally was a way for the community to come together and encourage hope, Brown said. A similar gathering is planned for Monday at noon in front of Superior Court at 95 Washington St.

"The one thing we can do is embrace this and grow stronger," Brown said.

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.
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