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Shots By Night, Day

One Killed, Two Hurt as Violence Spills Over to Morning

June 11, 2005
By MATT BURGARD, Courant Staff Writer

Crime in Hartford

(PDF document, 1 page)

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, Friday morning.

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 next week.

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 officer.

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 late Friday.

"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 outside.

"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. 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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