At Gathering, Memorial Is Dedicated To Teen Slain By Police Officer Year Ago Today
May 7, 2006
By RACHEL GOTTLIEB, Courant Staff Writer
The family and friends of Jashon Bryant, a Hartford teenager who was shot and killed by a Hartford police officer, gathered outside his family's home on Bellevue Street Saturday to plant a tree in his memory one day before the first anniversary of his death.
"I hope this will offer some measure of comfort," said Andrea Comer, head of the Greater Hartford African American Alliance and a school board member who has come to know Bryant's family during the past year.
Comer arranged for the Knox Parks Foundation to donate the tree and the African American Alliance donated a bench rocker. Both are on the family's lawn.
"The cherry tree will blossom every year at this time," Comer told a gathering of about 50 family members and friends. "And the African Alliance wanted the family to have a bench where they can reflect and meditate."
A year ago today, Bryant, 18, was a passenger in a car being driven by a friend when, police said, officers tried to question them in a Main Street parking lot. The officers - an agent of the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and Hartford Officer Robert Lawlor - told the two to get out of the car because they believed they had seen Bryant holding a gun in the car.
In describing to investigators what happened next, Lawlor said he saw the driver, Brandon Henry, 20, put the car in gear and drive toward his partner, federal agent Dan Prather. Lawlor then fired several times into the car.
Lawlor also told investigators that he thought he saw Bryant reaching for a gun.
Prather did not fire his gun and police did not find a gun in the car.
Henry, who drove about three blocks after the shooting, was wounded.
Bryant's death stirred anger in the community in part because Lawlor is white and Bryant black.
State's Attorney John Connelly in Waterbury is leading an investigation into the shooting, and a grand juror's review is due to be released soon.
The family is planning to sue the city, but hasn't yet filed a lawsuit.
At the memorial Saturday, Bryant's family expressed mixed emotions because they held a baby shower that day for the birth of his nephew, Jaequan Bryant. Jashon's sister, Shetavia Bryant, said the "Jae" in her son's name is a memorial to her brother, who was sometimes called "Jae." And she borrowed the "quan" in her son's name from another brother's name - Marquann.
Another sister, Tara Copeland, also named her son after Jashon when she named him Jay'vonne. In this case, the "Ja" comes from Jashon's first name and the `vonne' comes from his middle name, which was "Javonne."
"My brother is in a better place," Tara Copeland said. "We got two babies in the place of him. But I wish he was here."
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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