One of three College Street gunmen still at large

The intersection of Crown and College streets became a combat zone early Sunday morning, when police and three armed men engaged in a brief but intense gunfight.

The shooting started just before 2 a.m., as nearby bars and clubs were letting out and hundreds of people crowded Crown Street. Three nearby officers heard gunshots and rushed toward the intersection, where they saw the men exchanging gunfire, according to police. After the police approached the shooters and yelled at them to cease fire, one of the men shot at the officers. Police returned fire, but one shooter fled south on College Street, evading arrest. He is still at large, police said.

The other two shooters suffered non-life-threatening gunshot wounds and were sent to Yale-New Haven Hospital, New Haven Police Lt. Joe Witkowski said Sunday morning. Police have still not determined whether police caused the injuries or whether these two shooters will be charged with a crime.

New Haven Police Chief Frank Limon said Sunday afternoon that detectives are interviewing the two wounded gunmen and other witnesses to gather an accurate description of the wanted man.

Though Limon said the investigation is ongoing, he said from the account he has received, he thinks the officers acted appropriately in the gunfight.

“In my experience, when you have officers in uniform and shots are fired, they are trying to protect themselves and protect others in the area,” he said.

Limon said the police shift that patrols the downtown nightlife area was fully staffed when the incident occurred Sunday, with 12 officers and one supervisor on duty.

Still, Limon added, “You can only do so much.”

By 2:20 a.m. Sunday, both New Haven and Yale police officers were on the scene and had cordoned off a large section of College Street, from Crown Street to George Street. Yale Assistant Police Chief Ronnell Higgins said in an e-mail Sunday that Yale Police is in “close contact” the NHPD, and the two departments will coordinate patrolling the area.

Two men on the scene early Sunday morning said they had heard the shots half a block away at Anchor Bar and Restaurant on College Street. Immediately following the noise, the men saw a mass of people running away from the gunfire, and later they saw bullet holes in buildings on both sides of College Street, including Cooperative Arts and Humanities High School.

“Kids are going to go to school Monday with the windows all shot up,” said New Haven resident Andrew Gullans, 35, one of the men who had been at Anchor.

Ward 7 Alderwoman Frances “Bitsie” Clark, in whose ward the shootout occurred, said she is “horrified” by the incident and that it is a “call to assembly.” She said meetings about downtown safety will likely occur in neighborhood groups and the Board of Aldermen’s public safety committee in the near future.

The Crown Street area recently saw gun violence Aug. 14, when police found Javier Cosme, 21, of Bridgeport, dead from a gunshot wound in a parking lot near the Gotham Citi nightclub on Crown Street around 3:40 a.m. Less than 12 hours after Cosme’s body was found, police arrested three suspects for the killing.

Clark said she has been working with local bar and club owners to redress the amount of violence in the city’s downtown nightlife district. She said Mayor John DeStefano Jr.’s proposal to add a specially trained police detail to the officers already in place is a good idea, and that Sunday’s shootout is an impetus to find a solution.

“I don’t believe that you stop having an entertainment district — it’s very good for our economic development — but we certainly have to do something to prevent this from happening again,” Clark said.

City Hall officials said the detail DeStefano proposed less than three weeks ago would cost $800,000 and would consist of about 10 officers and one sergeant.

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