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
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
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
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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