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Witnesses To Killing Defy A Campaign Of Fear

May 11, 2005
By MATT BURGARD, Courant Staff Writer

John Weaver said the Hartford police cruiser stationed outside his home Tuesday made him feel safe. But the blood stains that glistened in the sun on his driveway reminded him that violence could claim him or members of his family at any time.

Four days after a friend of his sons was shot and killed while standing in the family's Branford Street driveway, Weaver said Tuesday that his family is being targeted with violence because his sons have agreed to testify against two men accused of murdering another friend in February. Police sources agree that Friday's killing is probably linked to a campaign of intimidation against the Weaver family.

"They're not trying to intimidate us. They're trying to eliminate us," Weaver said as a Hartford police officer sat in a cruiser in front of his house - part of an around-the-clock detail that began Friday night and was to continue until Weaver and his family could be placed into a state witness protection program. That was supposed to happen late Tuesday, Weaver said.

Weaver said his family is being threatened by a loosely formed gang of young people who live along the Albany Avenue corridor in the city's North End and go by the name Cripville. Police sources said they were familiar with the gang, adding that the department took the threat seriously enough to provide protection for Weaver's family.

Police allege that two members of the gang - Anthony "Little Ant" Allen, 17; and Kevin "Maduke" Amos, 19, both of Vine Street - shot and killed Lorenzo Morgan Rowe, a 15-year-old Weaver High School honor student, in February as Lorenzo and a group of friends were walking near Lorenzo's home on Branford Street.

Weaver said his sons and nephews were among the group that witnessed the shooting, and they agreed to testify against Allen and Amos, who are charged with murder. Police said Lorenzo was an innocent victim of an escalating feud over a girl, a feud in which he was not involved. Lawyers for Allen and Amos could not be reached for comment.

Now the feud has apparently claimed another victim: 20-year-old Robert Banks, a family friend from East Windsor who was hanging out with Weaver's sons in the family's driveway Friday, police said.

Weaver and his sons said Banks was a close friend of the family who regularly visited.

Forty residents and activists from HOPE Street Ministries gathered for a rally Tuesday at the scene of Banks' homicide to decry the violence.

After Lorenzo was killed, his relatives and others familiar with the feud said the intended shooting target was actually one of Weaver's seven sons, a 19-year-old who had somehow shown disrespect to a girl who is a relative of one of the suspects. They said friends of the suspects even threatened the son days after Lorenzo's slaying, telling him, "You're next."

Weaver did not comment on the history of the feud Tuesday, but vowed that his sons would still testify.

"We're going to do the right thing, no matter what," he said. Still, he said, his family's determination is coming with a terrifying cost.

As word has spread that his sons and nephews plan to testify in the case against the two suspects, Weaver said he and his family have become increasingly fearful as the sound of gunshots has become more common on the streets near their home, which is situated directly across the street from the house where Lorenzo lived.

The Weavers' growing sense of menace gave way to terror about 8:30 p.m. Friday as two of his sons were hanging out with Banks in the driveway. Weaver said three men in dark clothing emerged from the backyard of a house next door and at least one began firing at the group gathered in the driveway.

The shots struck down Banks and the three men ran off, Weaver said. Banks was later pronounced dead at St. Francis Hospital and Medical Center. No arrests have been made in the killing of Banks, and police would not comment on the case Tuesday.

Police officials have confirmed that the Friday night slaying appears to have a connection to Lorenzo's murder in February. Sources in the department said investigators believe the Weaver family is being targeted for intimidation.

Weaver said he notified the police department that he would like to take part in a state-run witness protection program after he learned that the cruiser stationed in front of his house would be discontinued this week. He said he was not sure how the program would provide protection for him and his family, but said he expected his family would be moved by the end of the night Tuesday.

Chief State's Attorney Christopher Morano, whose office oversees the witness protection program, said the program provides a variety of options for people who feel threatened because of their status as witnesses.

"It can involve many different forms of protection," said Morano, who declined to elaborate. "We really need to protect people who stick their necks out. They didn't ask to be witnesses."

Members of Lorenzo's family, who are close to the Weaver family, said they are outraged by the intimidation campaign to discourage Weaver family members from testifying.

"We just want them to leave us all alone here," said Dylan Jack, 21, Lorenzo's stepbrother. "This is all about something that happened a long time ago and they need to let it go. Too many people are being shot over something stupid."

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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