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Couple Get No Thanks From Cops

Helen Ubiñas
May 12, 2005

If we learned anything over the weekend, it's that whatever cops are doing about guns in Hartford, it's not working.

Friday, three men were shot in two incidents; only one survived. The shooters are still on the loose, presumably still armed.

Saturday two more men were shot, one fatally, this time by a cop who says he saw one of them with a gun; no gun has been found.

And those are just the ones that made the headlines.

So far this year there have been 55 people shot in 50 incidents around the city - 35 percent higher than the same time last year. And for every confirmed shooting, there are at least three or four reports of gunfire in which police find no victim.

That category would include the gunfire outside William and Claudia Harris's house on Mather Street last week, although the Harrises could be excused for thinking of themselves as victims. Bad enough that their 1997 Nissan Sentra was peppered with bullets when two groups opened fire on each other in the wee hours of Thursday; they were stuck with a $67 bill for doing their civic duty.

Gunfire isn't anything new around their neighborhood, they said. But having cops knock on their door asking if they could take the car as evidence certainly is. They obliged, and the next day Claudia hopped the bus to work.

By the time she got back home that afternoon, there was still no word on her car, so her husband drove her to her second job. The next day, police drove her to headquarters on Jennings Road, but there was no car. Finally, a friend made a couple of calls and found the police had had the car towed by Friendly Auto Body & Towing to its lot in the South Meadows.

The Harrises got a $67 bill for the tow and plenty of attitude from the Hartford police department.

William Harris called a desk sergeant who, Harris said, suggested he stop crying over a measly 67 bucks. Consider that your contribution to fighting crime in your neighborhood, Harris said the cop told him. If they really wanted to make life difficult, he told Harris, they could have impounded the car. Tell you what, the cop said, when we catch the person who did it, sue him for the money.

It was hard not to react, Harris said; he's not usually the easygoing type. But he managed to get off the phone without telling the officer where to go.

"I'm not stupid, he said. "I just might need a cop one day."

The Harrises have lived around the neighborhood for 17 years and have watched things deteriorate to the point where they don't go outside much anymore.

"It's work and home," William Harris said. For him that means the city sanitation department. For his wife Claudia, that's her day job as a paraprofessional at Bulkeley and her other job at Stop 'n' Shop.

"There's no reason to be out there, I got a 17-year-old son I'm trying to keep out of trouble," he said.

Almost daily, they're reminded of how hard that's becoming in this city.

Most of the time, they have no idea who the shots they hear were meant for, or if they actually reached their target. When they watch the news the next day, the faces of the fallen usually aren't familiar.

But this past week, Claudia did recognize one of the names: Betty Bryant, the grandmother of 18-year-old Jashon Bryant, who was shot and killed when police opened fire on the car in which he was a passenger.

"We worked at G. Fox together," she said. "But that was a long time ago."

What never seems to be a long time ago is the sound of gun fire around her neighborhood. Neighbors told Claudia Harris that Monday there were more shots fired on the street; this time they grazed a woman's head.

"I didn't even hear it," she said.

"I must be getting used to it."

Helen Ubiñas' column appears Thursdays and Sunday. She can be reached at Ubinas@courant.com.

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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