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City Police are Testing a BB Gun That Might Have Been Thrown From Car

May 14, 2005

Hartford police are testing a BB gun that was turned in to them Thursday by a city man who claims the weapon was seen being thrown from a car that was involved in a controversial police shooting last week, sources in the department said Friday.

Though police officials would not confirm that they were testing a gun in connection with the shooting, sources said the weapon was turned in Thursday night by a man who told police the gun was ditched by a pair of young men who were involved in the incident, one of whom was killed by police gunfire.

The man, who was not identified, told police he bought the gun from another man who lives in the North End neighborhood where the shooting took place last Saturday. He told police the man who sold him the gun also told him that he retrieved it after he saw the gun being thrown from the car as it sped away from pursuing officers, sources said.

Sources said the discovery could be crucial to the investigation into the shooting because the officer who fired the shots, Hartford Officer Robert Lawlor, has insisted that he saw one of the two suspects reaching for a gun, prompting his decision to fire. Yet no gun was ever found by police, despite hours of searching.

Sources said the gun is now being tested by a state forensics lab to see if any blood or other biological material can be found on it that might be linked to the two men who were in the car. If a match is found, sources said, it could lend credibility to Lawlor's claim that he was threatened by a gun.

But Jefferson Jelly, the attorney representing the family of the man killed in the incident, 18-year-old Jashon Bryant, said the discovery of the BB gun will likely have no impact on the case.

``Unless they have scientific evidence showing this gun was in the hands of Jashon Bryant, it's meaningless,'' he said. ``It makes you wonder when this gun shows up suddenly nearly a full week after the incident.''

Lawlor told investigators he fired on the car after he saw it lurching toward his partner, federal agent Dan Prather. When he saw Bryant reaching for what he believed was a gun, Lawlor said, he fired four or five times, striking Bryant in the head and striking the driver of the car, 21-year-old Brandon Henry, in the chest.

Hartford police policy states that officers are justified in firing their weapons if they reasonably perceive that they or others are in imminent danger of being harmed by someone, and there is no other way to protect themselves.

Bryant died almost instantly while Henry was able to put the car in gear and drive another three blocks until he crashed into another car and came to a stop, according to police accounts. Henry then ran out of the car and eluded pursuing officers until he was caught hiding under a porch a block away on Elmer Street, police said. He is now recovering from his injuries.

After he was taken to the hospital, Henry was interviewed briefly by detectives before he was given an anesthetic for treatment of his wound, according to a police report. Despite being asked repeatedly about having a gun in the car, Henry consistently denied that he or Bryant had a gun, the report said.

The police department's failure to find a gun in the car, or in the area near Nelson Street where the car came to a stop, has prompted many in the largely African American community of the North End to claim the shooting was unjustified. They claim Lawlor, who is white, fired recklessly on the two black men in the car.

Members of Bryant's family, along with others in the community, have pointed out that Prather never fired his gun, even though Lawlor said the car was lurching toward Prather. They also have dismissed suggestions by some police officials that the two young men could have thrown the gun from their car.

At a community rally Friday that took place at the North Main Street parking lot where Bryant was killed, a crowd of friends, family and community leaders chanted, ``There was no gun.''

Lawlor, however, has defended his decision to fire, commenting that he believed he saw Bryant reaching for a gun and preparing to fire it as Henry put the car in gear and headed toward his partner.

Henry, who also attended Friday's rally, is facing charges of possession of narcotics, interfering with police and evading responsibility in connection to the incident. The narcotics charge is connected to a half-ounce of cocaine that was found in the car and which Henry admitted to police that he was hiding in the vehicle, a police report says.

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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