Hartford Father Grieves Son's Death In Unsolved Shooting
By STEVEN GOODE
March 24, 2009
That's all the time James Evans Sr. had with his son after James Evans Jr. got out of prison in February.
Then "Jim" Evans was dead, shot twice on Congress Street in Hartford.
Since then, Evans has been thinking a lot about his son's death and what he might have said or done to change the events of that night.
Jim Evans, 21, was a few doors from his father's house when he was shot about 6:45 p.m. on Feb. 17. He was wearing an electronic monitoring device and had a 9 p.m. curfew as a condition of his parole. A few nights previously he had nearly missed curfew, so Evans Sr. suggested that his son get home earlier.
A parole violation — he walked away from a halfway house — was the reason for Jim Evans' final prison stay, his father said.
Before that he did time for drug possession and sales. Before that it was third-degree assault and unlawful possession of a firearm. And that was on top of a short stint in juvenile hall, and constant visits with teachers at Weaver High School, who said that Jim Evans was disrespectful and disruptive in the classroom.
Every time his oldest son messed up, Evans said, he talked to him about the importance of making the right decisions and the consequences of making the wrong ones. Jim Evans would acknowledge that his dad was right, but the advice never seemed to take — including the suggestion to stop running the streets with his friends in the city's North End.
This time seemed different, though. Jim Evans was going to turn his life around, or so his hopeful father thought.
"He wasn't going back to jail. It was a new feeling," Evans said. "He wanted to work, he was willing to work."
Evans chalked up his son's new attitude to having done enough time with the "lifers at Osborn" Correctional Institution to realize he wanted a different ending. Whatever the reason, it didn't matter to his father.
"We were starting new. Everything in the past was gone in my eyes," said Evans, 48, who works as a security guard at Bradley International Airport.
In the short time they had together, Evans said, he and his son would reflect on past events, which included the loss of some of Jim Evans' friends to gun violence.
"He understood how the streets were, but he didn't think his life could be taken," Evans said.
But Jim Evans was wrong. And father and son never got around to talking seriously about avoiding that life, where Jim Evans always seemed to find trouble. Evans will always regret that, because he's sure that with a little more time that conversation would have taken place. And this time, he thinks, the message would have sunk in.
But, instead, something happened on the streets of the North End that day — a beef with someone, perhaps — that followed Jim Evans home to Congress Street.
"His past lifestyle followed him," said Hartford Lt. Lance Sigersmith, commander of the department's major crimes division. He said that the shooting is still under investigation and that he is confident an arrest will be made. But, he said, it's clear that Jim Evans' activities in the final days of his life played a role in his death.
Hartford Police Chief Daryl K. Roberts sees too many young men like that, who associate getting into trouble or resorting to violence with being tough.
"They get caught up in the street life," Roberts said. "Just because you shoot someone and run away doesn't make you a man."
The Rev. Henry Brown, a leader of Mothers United Against Violence, visits grieving families who have lost relatives to violence in Hartford and holds prayer vigils for the victims all too frequently. Brown said that he has seen many families whose sons got out of jail with plans to change, only to return to the streets and their old lifestyles.
The elder Evans has spent a lot of time thinking about the what-ifs. What if he had just told his son to hole up at home for a month? What if Jim hadn't been walking down the street at that moment?
He also thinks about the person who killed his son, a stone's throw from his own house.
"You took my son's life, but it's not going to be that great for you either when they catch you," he said.
Now, Evans has some advice for the young men in Hartford who, like his son, make bad decisions and are drawn to the thrill of the streets.
"You have to think about your future, what's going to happen to you in 10 or 20 years," he said. "And put down the guns."
"He understood how the streets were, but he didn't think his life could be taken." — James Evans Sr.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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