Weaver High School opened today with extra security after five teenagers were shot in two incidents within a half-hour of each other Saturday evening.
Mayor Eddie Perez said extra police patrols were on the street, and said he would be reaching out to any troubled young people who made need help.
"Ninety-five percent of kids in this city are not involved in this," said Perez.
The Rev. Cornell Lewis, a community activist and pastor of Norwich End Church of Christ, told WTIC-AM that he and other members of the Men of Color organization were patrolling before school and were prepared to intervene if any trouble were to occur.
"Men were out this morning, and men will be out tonight," he said.
Three of the teenagers apparently were ambushed in Keney Park about 9:30 p.m. as they walked from the Pond House to a basketball court, police said. The boys, who ranged in age from 14 to 15, were shot by a male with a shotgun, police said.
Police said the most seriously injured was a 14-year-old who was shot in the chest. The other two suffered leg and arm wounds. Police did not release their names.
Two of the boys were treated at Hartford Hospital and released, and the third was in serious condition Sunday at an unidentified hospital, police and hospital sources said.
Shortly after 10 p.m. Saturday, while officers were still searching the area around the basketball court for evidence, police were called to 16-18 Vine St., where two other youths, both 17, had been shot. Their injuries were not life-threatening, police said.
A witness later said that about 10 p.m., more than 30 young people walked noisily from the Deerfield Street and Albany Avenue area toward the apartment building at 16-18 Vine. Individuals from the group were standing in the alley next to the building and out front when a gunman emerged from the building, fired four shots into the crowd, ran to a car and sped away, said the witness, who saw the incident from an apartment window.
"You just don't know how scary it was," the witness said.
Police said they found four shell casings at the scene.
The fact that at least three Weaver High School students were injured by gunfire concerned Paul Stringer, the school's principal. He said Sunday that the school planned to beef up security today so students and teachers would be safe.
"It is always a problem when something takes place over the weekend," Stringer said. "I'm concerned about the shootings. We will take every precaution to make sure that [the violence] doesn't make its way into the building."
Stringer said street violence can spill into the school. But two community activists who monitor teen violence in the city said Sunday that they suspect the shootings are linked to an incident inside the school last week that they say involved two rival groups. The activists also are concerned that those groups, which operate in the area of Albany Avenue and the Nelton Court housing project known as "The Ave" and "Crookville," may have ended their cease-fire after months of calm during the summer.
"The violence resurfaced over the past two weeks," said Andrew Woods, executive director of Hartford Communities That Care and a member of the Men of Color organization.
Stringer said Sunday he did not know enough about the shootings to say whether they are linked to any incidents at the school. He said one incident last Monday involved a student carrying a BB gun. He said the second "problem," on Thursday, resulted in students being suspended, but he declined to elaborate.
Police would not comment Sunday on any possible motives for the shootings.
Hartford police late Sunday stepped up patrols in the North End neighborhoods where most of the weekend's violence occurred. Special squads of enforcement officers - normally not assigned to work Sunday and Monday nights - were ordered to remain on duty through Tuesday night.
Numerous squad cars convened on the corner of Vine and Mather streets about 9 p.m. Sunday after police noticed a car carrying a group of young men parked on the side of the road.
Police said the men, most in their late teens or early 20s, had come to Hartford from Maine to buy drugs, and a machete was seized from the trunk of the car. The men, who police said had no apparent connection to the recent shootings, were being booked late Sunday.
After the Keney Park and Vine Street shootings Saturday, police responded to two other incidents involving firearms.
Around 3 a.m. Sunday, police were called to 56 Arbor St. on a report of shots fired. Police said witnesses told them that several men traveling in a 2005 Acura fired 10 rounds from a 9mm handgun.
Police tracked the car to the area of Catherine and Bonner streets, but the driver eluded them in a pursuit. By daybreak, residents on Catherine Street had found two guns thrown onto the grass. The guns had been reported stolen, police said.
In another investigation, police said they found 11 shell casings outside of a house at 52 Acton St.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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