New Haven city leaders, police address spike in violence in the wake of multiple shootings

New Haven

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) — New Haven Police have identified the two people who were killed during the course of four separate shootings on Tuesday.

The first shooting occurred after 6 p.m. in the Dixwell neighborhood on Munson Street near Sherman Parkway.

Police said the 40-year-old Howard Lewis, of Hamden, was shot while sitting in a car with his 15-year-old son and his 18-year-old brother. He was brought to the hospital with life-threatening injuries. Just before 11:30 p.m., police said that Lewis died.

The second shooting happened just after 7 p.m. and involved a 20-year-old New Haven man. He was shot on Ferry Street near Fox Street while riding a dirt bike.

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“Someone came out of a sunroof and was shooting,” said New Haven Police Chief Reyes.

The victim had a non-life-threatening gunshot wound to the leg. He was taken to the hospital by ambulance.

Just before 8:30 p.m., police responded to a third shooting down the street from the second. An 18-year-old Hamden man had been shot in the neck on State Street near May Street in the Cedar Hill neighborhood. He was also taken to the hospital where he is listed in stable condition.

The second homicide happened just after 10 p.m. at a corner store on Whalley Avenue, between Hobart Street and Blake Street. An ambulance took 33-year-old Ibrahim Valentino Shareef, Jr., of New Haven, to the hospital where he was pronounced deceased.

Investigators believe the shooting was in retaliation for another shooting the victim he had just served time for.

Reyes said three of the four victims had extensive criminal histories, adding he believes some may be connected. This all comes after a violent weekend where police responded to seven shootings over the course of 72 hours.

“Are we throwing up the white flag? No, but we’re throwing up the caution flag,” Reyes. “We’re very concerned about what’s going on in this city.”

While police say they have done a tremendous job in the past few weeks getting hand guns off the streets, they say more work needs to be done.

Chief Reyes and Mayor Justin Elicker came together on Wednesday to discuss the surge in violence, pointing out some of the underlying issues like economic inequality and the lack of resources for the community.

“We all know that if people have a good job to take care of their families that some of this violence will stop,” added Tyisha Walker-Meyers, President of the New Haven Board of Alders.

Due to COVID-19, Chief Reyes says his patrol units haven’t been able to work on relationships in the community. He says there are plans to continue those proactive in-person interactions with persons of interest as well as increasing community-level engagement.

“Everybody is fighting,” Alder Honda Smith said. “We got a racial war, a gun war, you have a drug war, you have children warring.”

She said aside from good parenting, another relationship needs to be strengthened.

“We need police officers back on the streets all doing community policing; being friends, not enemies,” Smith said. “When you’re engaged with residents, the residents begin to trust you.”

Tuesday night’s homicides mark the tenth and eleventh in New Haven this year. That’s already the total of homicides we saw in 2019 and we are only six months in.

Mayor Justin Elicker said while the police department’s budget had recently been cut, the said there is still room to grow the force.

“Even though my administration cut 48 officer vacant positions from the police force, we still have room to grow this force.”

Anyone with information on any of these shootings is asked to contact the New Haven Police Department at (203) 946-6304. 

On Wednesday night, Elicker released the following statement:

Dear New Haven Residents,

Today I stood with Chief Reyes, members of the Board of Alders, faith leaders and clergy, and community members against the gun violence continuing to tear our community apart. Last night there were multiple shootings, resulting in two homicides.

I am heartbroken at the increase of violence in the City in recent days and the loss of members of our community. My heart goes out to all of the families of those victims of gun violence. Around the nation, we are seeing increasing crime. The COVID crisis has caused severe economic hardship, contributed to stress in communities, and limited our typical direct engagement with our community and with the courts closed, slowed our ability to get the violence under control. This is coupled with the general nationwide stress on the relationship between the community and the police. Like many communities, New Haven has been hit hard.

Gun violence has no place in New Haven, and we must do everything we can as a community to provide safe spaces for individuals who are at risk of harm to themselves and others to work out their issues.

I want to make clear that Chief Reyes and the Police Department have my full support. There have been some statements made in recent days regarding the cuts I made to the Police Department. We have serious financial problems in our City. The numbers in our Police Department have been going down for over two years, and that has brought us to the point where we are today. While I need to make very difficult budget decisions that significantly cut almost every department in the City, this is no way is an indication that I do not value the work of our police department. In fact, it’s just the opposite. And it is at times like these that we see the importance of the work our officers are doing, and the importance of the relationships our leadership and front-line officers have developed in the community. It doesn’t mean there isn’t work to do in this relationship. Still, our officers have a very difficult job to do in the community, and it is vital we support them.

I want to implore the community to work with our police force to quell this violence. The violence that happened last night and in recent weeks is unacceptable. The behavior of people who are resorting to violence is unacceptable. We must stand here together, alongside many community members and community leaders, to say that we need to put politics aside and work as a team to ensure members in our community have the support and accountability they need to put the guns down. We cannot do this alone, our Police Department is well equipped to respond, but we cannot do this alone, we need your partnership to share information and support our community.

Ultimately, we must work quickly together to immediately address this spike in gun violence, but these problems will not be addressed in the long run unless we address the underlying issues around economic inequality and the lack of resources so many in our community deserve. I know everyone here agrees and is ready to continue the work on this.

Earlier today, we held an emergency meeting of community and police stakeholders to discuss how to work collaboratively to immediately address the violence. Many of the participants then joined the Chief and me this evening to go door-to-door visiting residents whose homes were near the violence from last night. Chief Reyes is also increasing police presence, resuming proactive in-person interactions with persons of interest (an activity that was put on hold during the height of COVID), and upping our level of community engagement.

I know that many others in our community are stepping up because we all want to make a difference. New Haven is facing very challenging times – and it is times like these where we are tested as a City, and these times give us the opportunity to show what we can do together.

Always serving you,

Mayor Justin Elicker

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