Hartford City Council President Loses Cousin To Gun Violence
By Jeff Cohen
June 15, 2012
The city of Hartford says that gun crimes are down, as is the homicide rate. But last weekend was a violent one in Hartford - with two shooting deaths, nine other shooting victims, and two stabbings. One of the dead is 24-year-old Michael Bailey, Jr. -- a cousin of City Council President Shawn Wooden. He and WNPR's Jeff Cohen sat down for an interview.
Wooden is in his first term on the city council. I asked him if he'd be willing to come to our studios in the city's Asylum Hill neighborhood, a half a mile from where his cousin was shot, to talk about the incident -- and its aftermath.
"Michael, we called him Mike Mike, he was a good kid, nice to be around. He's my cousin. He was in a mentoring program as a father and so he was trying to, he was trying to get his life together. He went to college for two years, and, you know, family was trying to encourage him to go back and finish, finish that. In some respects, it's pretty simple. He was shot down and killed . And was found face down, killed. "
Hartford's summer months are usually more violent than the colder ones. But, on the whole, things have been quieter lately -- thanks, in part, to a special police investigative unit that deals with gun crimes. But trends can be broken.
"It was a horrible, horrible weekend for our city with respect to shootings, with the two deaths in the city and when you have weekends like that, the statistics really don't matter. But it tells us that we have a lot...we have a lot to do, lot to do in our city to still address the level of violence. I would add that we had one death of a young man that lived in Bloomfield, another death of a young man from Windsor. This is not just a Hartford problem and that we need to be more regional as it relates to addressing, addressing these problems of violence in our community. Hartford is not just Hartford alone. We are fundamentally intertwined with our neighbors. And that's true in terms of jobs, in terms of social and cultural institutions. When it comes to some of the challenges, unfortunately, it feels like Hartford is in it alone."
In the days following the shootings, Mayor Pedro Segarra sent a series of press releases that -- despite the violence -- boasted the city's recent record on reducing violent crime. Segarra said it's fundamental that the city's residents not discount the "great work" of the police and law enforcement. I asked Wooden about that email.
Cohen: What's your take on that?
Wooden: As...as a family member of a victim, I was offended by that press release. I understand, it's important for people in our city and in our region to have all of the information because Hartford, in many respects, is a beautiful city and a wonderful community. However, after a weekend like that, I think it was a mistake to say that the fundamental point is how great we're doing. That's not the fundamental point for my family on Monday after that, and it's not the fundamental point for a lot of people in the city.
Wooden: We need results, we need resources, we need community engagement, and when I say it's not just about the police -- I know that our police department -- they're working overtime this past weekend, I've talked to them, I know what they're doing, and I think it's time for the community -- beyond the politicians and law enforcement -- to work overtime, as well.
Shawn Wooden is Hartford's city council president. His cousin, Michael Bailey, Jr. was shot and killed on June 9.