Community reacts to recent shootings

Three days after a pair of shootings killed two people within yards of the Yale School of Nursing, members of the surrounding community have reacted with shock and frustration.

New Haven Police Department spokeswoman Bonnie Winchester said NHPD detectives are currently in the process of investigating Sunday’s shootings, which killed New Haven residents Carlos Ortiz, 22, and Aaron McCrea, 27. Although she said she could not comment on specific details of the investigation, Winchester said NHPD officials are investigating the possibility that the shootings might be drug-related.

“It’s a definite possibility,” Winchester said. “We are in the process of investigating whether or not [the shootings] are related to drug issues and how the incidents are related to each other.”

The shootings, which occurred at 1 a.m. and 4 p.m., respectively, took place less than a block from each other on south Church Street. Despite the site’s close proximity to the Nursing School campus, Yale Deputy Secretary Martha Highsmith said no one affiliated with the University was involved in the incidents.

Though NHPD and Board of Alderman officials said drug-related crimes are frequent occurrences, Sunday’s incidents have drawn attention to “Hill South,” the area of New Haven sandwiched between Union Station, an NHPD substation and both the Yale Schools of Medicine and Nursing. The violence of Sunday’s shootings, some nearby residents said, has left the community shaken and angry.

“We are frustrated and at a loss about what to do,” Ward 4 alderwoman Andrea Jackson-Brooks said. “The problems that we have are nothing new. The problems have been going on for as long as I’ve been out here.”

Jackson-Brooks said that while drug issues might have instigated the shootings, the real problem is the economic situation many New Haven residents face on a day to day basis. Without viable job opportunities, she said, many young men begin to deal drugs as a way to generate income.

But Jackson-Brooks cautioned residents against assuming that a single solution exists. To address the problem, she said, every part of the community, from churches to schools to businesses, will have to focus on the issue.

“I don’t know what it will require for everyone to make this a priority,” she said. “But incidents like these make it clear that the problem is real and not going away.”

NHPD officials said that since Jan. 1, 18 individuals have been murdered in New Haven.

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