Angel Arce Torres' Death And A Hit-And-Run Arrest Rekindle Hartford's Apathy Debate
JEFFREY B. COHEN and VANESSA DE LA TORRE
May 16, 2009
Angel Arce Torres was hit by a car and left lying in the middle of Park Street as bystanders watched, former Deputy Mayor Nicholas Carbone was savagely beaten and robbed, and the badly decomposed body of a man was found in the basement of the man's family's home.
The gruesome chapter in the city's history unfolded in less than a week.
So, when a shocking video of the Park Street hit-and-run became public last year and his city was being mocked nationally as an example of public apathy — the video shows a limp Torres lying in the street with no one coming to his aid — Police Chief Daryl K. Roberts exploded:
"I'm ashamed to say our city has a toxic relationship with ourselves," he said. "They hit a man, drive away and people walk by like nothing happened."
"It's incredible how people could be so inhumane," Roberts said. "We no longer have a moral compass. Anything goes."
On Friday, nearly a year after the hit-and-run, the arrest of a suspect in the case reignited the collective conversation begun after the accident, centering on whether the public's reaction would differ today.
Pat Haugabook, waiting at the bus stop near Danny's Grocery, the market where Torres had bought milk moments before he was struck, said the case was all the talk of the beauty shop where she had just had her hair done. She said she was skeptical about whether much has changed. The people who would have gotten involved then still would today, and those who stood by probably would do the same.
"The community has to come together, the police, families, everyone," Haugabook said.
Others, while deploring the what happened, said it didn't typify how most people would react.
"I don't think that incident defined the city," said Latoya Hutchins.
She said she was downtown recently when an elderly woman tripped and fell in the middle of the street, injuring herself.
"Everybody stopped and helped her," she said.
Her friend, Troy Hardy, agreed.
"Most people in Hartford look out for each other," he said.
But not all of them, said Dale Smith, 21.
"You have people out here who are always about themselves," Smith said, dressed in a dark suit. The day Torres became a victim, Smith had walked to Danny's Grocery on his way home, then saw police had cordoned off the street. Maybe the store got robbed; perhaps someone was shot, Smith thought.
"It's none of my business," Smith said he concluded. Even if he had witnessed a crime, he said Friday, the idea is the same: "It's not my responsibility."
People are struggling, with their own problems to fret about, Smith said. "In Hartford, that's the way it is. ... With what's going on in the world today, you don't have time to worry about other situations. I think it's bad. However, you can't change the world."
"If I was there," Parkman said, "I would've called the ambulance."
Sixty-year-old Junior Graham, a Hartford resident since 1953, walked down Park Street using his cane. "This is a busy street out here," Graham said. Cars speed, folks seem to be in a rush. "You can't be worrying about crossing the street without getting hit by a car. ... It's ridiculous."
Chief Roberts' uncharacteristically harsh comments in the wake of the incident caught some in the city off guard. Mayor Eddie A. Perez held a press conference a day later and said he wanted to send a clear message to criminals:
"If you commit a crime in the city of Hartford, you will be arrested and justice will be done."
On Friday, Perez said hundreds of people called with information after Torres' death Monday, and he praised those people for stepping forward.
"This arrest … took longer than anybody wanted. But peace and justice that this arrest serves is worth it," the mayor said. "Everyone wanted the Arce family to be at peace."
Roberts, too, had praise for the city he had "called out" a year before.
"I'm very proud of our community. I think everyone wants this to come out properly so the friends and the family can have some closure. Without the community's help, we could not have gotten to this point," he said.
"Hartford does care."
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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