Series of shootings puts city on alert

Five shootings committed with the same gun Sunday and Monday in New Haven have sent city and state police scrambling to catch those responsible.

The police department has dramatically increased patrols and committed nearly all its detectives to solving the case, New Haven Police Chief Francisco Ortiz said Tuesday. All five shootings occurred relatively far from the Yale campus and University police do not believe students and faculty are at particular risk, Yale Police Lt. Michael Patten said.

Early Sunday morning, Gregory Jones, 18, and Chris Lowery, 20, were shot as they talked with friends in the Newhallville section of the city.

On Monday morning, in three separate incidents, Jose Rivera, 24, Robert Blake, 41, and Angel Colon, 54, were each shot while going to work. All three men were attacked within 10 minutes and several blocks of each other in the city’s Hill neighborhood.

According to the most recent police information, two of the victims have been released from Yale-New Haven Hospital, while the other three are still hospitalized.

Ortiz said the victims have no apparent connection to each other and the shootings appear to be random. Though all the men were racial minorities, he said there is no reason to believe the crimes are racially motivated.

Police believe they are looking for more than one suspect, and that the shooters are likely to be experienced criminals, he said.

In a press conference Tuesday afternoon, city officials announced that 50 of the city’s 61 detectives have been assigned to the investigation and that street patrols have been increased by 30 percent.

“We have had an aggressive response to this incident,” New Haven Mayor John DeStefano Jr. said.

DeStefano said he received a concerned call from Connecticut Governor Jodi Rell Tuesday morning, offering the assistance of state police in the investigation.

“I called her back and said we’d be glad to have the opportunity to work with the Connecticut police,” DeStefano said.

But Ortiz said police efforts will not be solely limited to investigating the shootings.

“We saw [the shootings] as an opportunity to go into the city and hit troubled spots,” he said.

City and state police efforts will focus on three tasks: serving arrest warrants to those wanted for felonies, providing an increased community presence to combat drug trafficking and other crime, and curbing a rise in auto theft, Ortiz said.

Patten said University police are cooperating with the city in the investigation, but declined to elaborate. Faculty and students on campus should be concerned about the shootings, Patton said, but there is no reason to believe those responsible would attack near campus.

“I would just say if you see any unusual activity, to report it to us and we’ll check it out,” he said.

About 600 students are currently taking summer classes at Yale, including about 450 living in Branford and Saybrook colleges. Director of Yale Summer Programs William Whobrey said he had not heard about the shootings but that the program would follow any advice given by University police about the matter.

“I think we have adequate security in place,” Whobrey said. “I don’t anticipate additional measures.”

Another 700 high school-age students are currently on campus for the Exploration Summer Program, said Amy Briesch, the assistant dean of students for the program. Briesch said administrators spoke to campus police about the shootings Tuesday and informed the students about the incidents that evening.

Administrators also reminded the students of the program’s strict 7 p.m. curfew and that they must remain close to campus, but no new safety measures were added, Briesch said.

“There’s only really so much we can do,” she said.

The program received multiple calls from concerned parents Tuesday, Briesch said.

DeStefano said Tuesday that the city continues to experience a decrease in crime overall. After a decade of steep drops, crime in the city increased slightly in 2003. The rise in shootings was particularly steep, prompting increased neighborhood patrols and use of the street narcotics unit by the then newly-promoted Ortiz.

— The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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