Ammunition, three handguns, eyewitness testimony and a picture of the alleged victim were among the pieces of evidence prosecutors presented Tuesday at the arraignment of the sole suspect in the murder of School of Medicine postdoctoral clinical fellow Vajinder Toor, 34.
Lishan Wang, 44, the suspect charged in Toor’s murder, was arrested Monday morning, minutes after Toor was found dead outside his Branford, Conn., condominium. On Tuesday, a judge found probable cause for Wang’s detention and set bail at $2 million.
Judicial marshals escorted Wang into the New Haven Superior Courthouse, and Wang, a Chinese national, bowed his head throughout the proceeding, while a court-appointed Mandarin interpreter stood next to him, quietly translating the proceedings.
Assistant state’s attorney Devant Joiner said at the arraignment that Wang may be subject to deportation or loss of legal status if convicted. Wang’s lawyer, assistant public defender Scott Jones, agreed to the $2 million bail and asked for protective custody for Wang while he is in prison. Wang did not enter a plea. At the end of the arraignment, Judge Roland Fasano scheduled the next court date for May 11.
Since July 2009, Wang and Toor had been in a protracted legal fight about Wang’s termination from the Kingsbrook Jewish Medical Center in Brooklyn, where Toor was Wang’s boss.
Wang was fired because of alleged lapses in his duties in May 2008. A year after his termination, he filed a 23-page civil rights lawsuit against the medical center, accusing it of discriminating against him because he is Chinese. (According to Wang’s lawsuit, Wang has been a permanent resident of the United States since 2004.) The lawsuit demanded that Wang, who entered Kingsbrook’s medical residency program in 2006, be reinstated and given punitive damages.
According to the medical center’s response to the lawsuit, Toor said he had been looking for Wang for several hours on May 15, 2008, but could not find him even though Wang was supposed to be on-duty. Wang claimed he had been available all day.
Toor and Wang then got into a contentious argument, according to the hospital’s response to Wang’s lawsuit, during which Toor later said Wang had used “hostile body language.” Wang was suspended with pay in May and fired two months later.
Joiner said at Wang’s arraignment that inside the van in which Wang was arrested police found pictures of Toor and two other people involved in Wang’s firing from Kingsbrook.
Toor was shot five times Monday morning while walking to his car, and his wife, Parneeta Sidhu, who is six months pregnant barely avoided the same fate.
According to police reports, Sidhu told police that just before 8 a.m. Monday she kissed her husband goodbye as he left for work and a few moments later heard noises that sounded like gun shots. When she ran outside, she saw her husband lying in the grass just behind his car.
“What are you doing to my husband?” she yelled at Wang, who was standing nearby, gun in hand.
According to the reports, Wang then turned toward Sidhu and fired several shots in her direction. Sidhu dodged the gunfire by ducking behind several cars and running back into her house, according to police reports.
Two of Toor’s neighbors told police they saw parts of the shooting and saw Wang flee the scene in a red minivan.
About one mile away from the scene, Wang was arrested after police saw the fleeing van, pursued it, and pulled Wang over.
In addition to the photos of Toor and his two Kingsbrook colleagues, inside the van police found Google map directions to Toor’s home and three handguns, two of which matched shell casings officers recovered from the scene of the crime. Police also found two ammunition magazines on Wang.
The murder occurred in the Meadows, a quiet Branford condominium complex where violence of any kind, let alone a shooting, is a foreign concept, a resident said Monday.
“Never anything happens here,” said Kalani Lopa, who lives a few houses away from the Toor family.
Lopa said that the day before the shooting he saw Wang’s van in the neighborhood.
“I was looking out my window, where I have coffee, yesterday morning when I saw a red van driving around,” Lopa added.
Asked if he thought the presence of the van Sunday indicated that Wang had been carefully surveilling the area before the crime, Lopa answered: “Definitely.”
Toor was a first-year fellow in the infectious diseases section of the Department of Internal Medicine at the Yale School of Medicine. He graduated from the Guru Govind Singh Medical College in Punjab, India, in 2001.
Wang lives in Georgia with his wife and three kids.