May 18, 2005
By MATT BURGARD, Courant Staff Writer
The Rev. Brian Keith Sinclair on Tuesday remembered James "Jamie" Carter
as a happy-go-lucky little boy whose world turned upside down when
his mother became seriously ill while he was 7 or 8.
As he grew up, Sinclair recalled, Carter decided to forego a potentially
promising future as a high school football player, to hang out with
friends on the streets of Hartford.
"That's where he felt comfortable, that's where he felt loved," said
Sinclair, who took Carter under his wing in a youth program he helped
run in the city for several years.
The 18-year-old Carter found death on those streets last weekend.
He was shot and killed after getting into an argument - apparently
over a girl - with another man on Martin Street, becoming the city's
ninth homicide victim of the year.
Sinclair, who has worked with dozens of young men like Carter as
they struggle to avoid a destiny of violence and hopelessness, was
among a crowd of city religious leaders who showed up Tuesday on
the spot where Carter was killed to call for an end to youth-on-youth
Gathering across the street from a makeshift shrine that had been
set up by Carter's friends to honor his memory, a group of ministers
from several city churches urged young people to resist the urge
to avenge Carter's death with more violence.
Police have so far not made an arrest in the case, and many community
leaders said they feared that Carter's friends, instead of working
with police, would seek street justice by finding and killing Carter's
"We're here to tell you that we love you, we understand how
things are with you, but this is not the way," said the Rev.
Donald Johnson, leader of the HOPE Street Ministries anti-violence
group, who addressed his words to the young people who stood and
watched the rally from nearby porches and sidewalks.
Standing outside the periphery of the rally, beyond the ministers
and the TV news crews assembled to cover the event, many residents
said it would take more than rallies to reach Hartford's troubled
One 20-year-old man who said he was a friend of Carter's, who identified
himself only as Chris, praised leaders like Sinclair, who showed
enough concern for Carter's friends that he went to the shrine late
Monday night to sit with them as they mourned his loss.
But, Chris said, other leaders who can often be seen preaching on
the news shows are never around when the spotlight moves somewhere
"If Jamie wasn't dead, these people wouldn't be here for us," he
"Their hearts might be in
the right place, but why is it we never see them until someone
Other residents said the often hostile relationship between the
police department and the largely African American community in the
city's North End contributes to the problem of youth violence.
George "Shorty" Davis,
a longtime resident who played basketball at Weaver High School,
said he was impressed when Deputy Police Chief Darryl Roberts approached
him at the rally for a friendly chat.
"But Roberts grew up in this neighborhood, so he knows everyone
already," Davis said. "It's the officers who don't come
from here who need to reach out to the residents, let us know who
they are as people. The police don't do enough of that."
At the same time, Davis said, too many young people in the city's
neighborhoods are growing up without proper respect for life. He
pointed out that Carter is believed to have died in a dispute over
"Nobody can control these kids anymore," he
"They get mad and they shoot
someone and they don't stop and think about what they're doing.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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