In an example of how quickly violence can beget
violence in the tinderbox neighborhoods of north Hartford, three men were
shot in about 12 hours after an argument broke out Thursday night, leading
to a homicide followed by a fight and shooting, possibly in retaliation,
The outbreak of violence created a tense environment in the
neighborhoods near Seyms and Center streets, where 25-year-old
Leslie Wells Jr. was shot in the chest and became the city's
13th homicide victim of the year at about 11:30 p.m. Thursday.
Several men were hanging out and drinking at a picnic table
in Lozada Park Thursday night when the argument started, police
said. As the words grew more heated, police and witnesses said,
one of the men pulled out a gun and sprayed gunfire at two of
the men, killing Wells and wounding another, before running off
into the night.
The gunman "just flipped out," said
Orlando Fornez, a friend of Wells who had been drinking with
the men minutes before the shooting. Fornez said he did not
know the man who fired the shots, but police said they had
identified a suspect and expected to make an arrest by early
The other victim in Thursday night's shooting, 28-year-old Wyllis
Wright, was recovering Friday at St. Francis Hospital and Medical
Center. He and Wells were sitting at the picnic table when the
man began firing, police and witnesses said.
Tensions in the area gave way to further violence about 11:30
a.m. Friday, when police responded to a report of a shooting
in front of the SAND school complex near Main and Florence streets.
One man was beaten and another was shot twice, police said.
The shooting occurred within a quarter-mile of Lozada Park,
and police said they were exploring the possibility that Friday's
violence had a direct connection to Thursday's.
"It sure looks that way, though we don't know for sure
yet," said Officer Steven Pepler, a veteran North End patrol
Though overall crime in the city is down so far compared to
this same point last year, the murder rate is up 50 percent as
of June 4 and the numbers of shootings and shooting victims are
also up substantially, according to police records.
Though police have reported 13 homicides this year, only nine
of them have been classified as murders. In the other cases there
was no apparent intent to kill, or the cases are still under
investigation, police said.
Police Chief Patrick J. Harnett
said officers did a "tremendous
job" in tracking down a suspect in Friday's shooting, which
took place in the midst of a fistfight that apparently broke
out in front of the SAND complex.
As one man was being beaten by another, a gunman walked up and
fired at the man who was beating up the other man, police said.
Police said the man who was shot, identified as Luis Palmer of
Hartford, was taken to St. Francis Hospital and Medical Center
with gunshots to the temple and buttocks.
The man suspected of firing the gun, identified by police as
21-year-old Phillip Crump of Hartford, fled next-door to the
Mary Shepard Place complex, a series of modern brick apartment
buildings behind the SAND school.
After running by several people with the gun still in his hand,
police said, Crump dived through an open first-floor window into
an apartment in one of the buildings, startling a young mother
and her toddler daughter, police said.
The woman and the girl were able to run out of the building
as swarms of officers closed in on the building with their guns
drawn. One officer, Javier DeJesus, an 11-year veteran, dialed
the woman's apartment phone, and Crump answered, Harnett said.
After several minutes in which police trained their weapons
on the apartment and nearby residents were told to stay in their
homes, DeJesus was able to persuade the man to surrender, Harnett
said. Police said Crump then emerged from the apartment and was
taken into custody. Crump was being booked on unspecified charges
"It was terrific police work on the part of Officer DeJesus," Harnett
said. DeJesus downplayed the chief's praise, saying only, "It's
just another day."
Residents who live in the Mary Shepard complex said they appreciated
police efforts to take the suspect into custody peacefully.
"Who knows what that guy was thinking? He could have been
high or crazy. It's scary," said Joe Holloway, who lives
next-door to the woman whose apartment was invaded by the suspect. "Some
guy running around here with a gun, we don't need that."
A community group, Mothers
United Against Violence, will hold a "silent march" at
1 p.m. starting at 33 Granby St. in Hartford today to speak
out about the impact violence has had on families.
Other residents, including Fornez, said they doubted that Friday's
shooting would be the last act of violence to visit their neighborhood
over the coming days.
"It just feeds on itself," said Fornez, who stood
watch over a shrine of candles and liquor bottles in Wells' memory
Friday. The shrine was set up on the sidewalk where Wells, who
was known by his friends as "Boo Boo," staggered and
fell the night before.
Fornez recalled drinking with Wells Thursday night and then
going inside, only to be startled a few minutes later by gunfire
"I had just gone into my home when I heard the shots and
came running out," said Fornez, who added he saw the man
still firing. "At first no one knew what happened to Boo
Boo, but then we found him over here behind a car. He breathed
his last breath right here."
Fornez said the man believed to have been the gunman is widely
known to be a drug dealer who sells regularly at the corner of
Seyms and Center streets. Fornez gazed angrily at a group of
young men Friday afternoon who were sitting on the picnic table
across the street where the shooting broke out Thursday night.
He said the young men were friends of the shooter.
"They have a lot of nerve coming here," he said. "They
have no respect."
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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