Though Yale and New Haven police said they will increase the number of officers in the Crown Street area in response to Sunday night’s shoot-out, nearby business owners said they question whether the downtown nightlife district will be any safer in the upcoming weeks.
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City officials released new details Monday about the fight: City Hall spokeswoman Jessica Mayorga said police responded to the corner of College and Crown streets at about 1:50 a.m. Sunday and saw a mob assaulting New Haven resident Ricky Hargett, who had been celebrating his 19th birthday that night. An unknown man then opened fire on Hargett with a handgun at close range, Mayorga said. The gunman missed Hargett but hit two other New Haven residents: Alfred Smith, 22, in the hand and Eric Evans, 19, in the pelvis. Officers attempted to control the chaos when the same gunman opened fire on them as well, Mayorga said.
Police have still not yet found the gunman, who fled south from the scene Sunday morning. Both Smith and Evans were taken to Yale-New Haven Hospital on Sunday with non-life-threatening wounds. Smith has since been released, a hospital spokesman said, though he did not know whether Evans was released. Police have arrested Hargett, the New Haven Register reported.
A search in state judicial records for Ricky Hargett born in 1991 shows that he is awaiting trial on numerous drug charges; a search for Alfred Smith born in 1987 returned numerous felony charges, including possession of narcotics; and a search for Eric Evans born in 1990 shows Evans has pleaded not guilty to burglary and larceny.
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All three officers involved in the shooting — Kealyn Navikoff, Jason Jemiola and Christopher Cacela — have been with the New Haven Police Department for just over a year, Mayorga said.
In an e-mail to the Yale community Monday afternoon, Yale Assistant Police Chief Ronnell Higgins said Yale police will add extra patrols along the edges of Old Campus near Crown Street on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights for an undetermined amount of time. Higgins added that the NHPD will lead the investigation of the shooting.
Still, some business owners said they are uncertain how the area’s nightlife will change in the immediate future. Frank Patrick, the owner of Bar on Crown Street, said he is concerned that fewer patrons will frequent his restaurant in light of the trend of violence in the nightlife district.
On Aug. 14, police found Javier Cosme, 21, of Bridgeport, dead from a gunshot wound in a parking lot near the Gotham Citi nightclub on Crown Street at about 3:40 a.m. Less than 12 hours after the body was found, police arrested three suspects for the killing. Months earlier, on Nov. 28, Bambaata Carr, a 21-year-old social services worker from Hamden, was killed in a fight on the dance floor of Club Sinergy, a now-defunct nightclub on Crown Street. Carr sustained more than 10 stab wounds, and two others were also injured, according to a police report.
Frank Dean, 72, who has worked at the parking lot next to the bar Hula Hanks for several years, said he was not surprised by the Sunday morning shooting. He said the area has repeatedly been a site of violence in his time there.
“These kids don’t get target practice, so the bullets go all over the place,” he said.
Patrick said he would support Mayor John DeStefano Jr.’s proposal to increase police presence in the area by adding a specially trained security detail. But DeStefano is asking businesses to help pay for the estimated $800,000 increase in officers, and Patrick said some business owners were upset by the proposal the mayor presented to them in August.
Patrick added that by divvying up the cost among clubs based on occupancy, the mayor’s proposal excludes many local bars and clubs such as Geronimo’s, Crown Pizza and Louis’ Lunch — all in the same block of Crown Street as Bar. Many proprietors, including Bar, said they think the amount they would have to pay is unfair, Patrick said. (Under the proposal, Bar would have to pay $22,750 annually with an occupancy of 325 people, while Toad’s Place on York Street would have to pay $49,700 with an occupancy of 710.)
“I’d be more than happy to support it,” Patrick said. “But they haven’t presented us with a good solid plan yet. That’s the problem.”
Brian Phelps, owner of Toad’s Place, said earlier this month that he has no problem with the idea of a bar detail since he already pays for extra police officers on a regular basis (as many as three officers on busy Saturday nights).
“Hiring one cop is like hiring five security guys,” he said.
In an interview Monday evening, Ward 7 Alderwoman Frances “Bitsie” Clark, in whose ward Sunday’s shooting took place, said the gunfight deterring clubgoers from returning to the nightlife district is a “tremendous worry.” But ultimately, she said, downtown safety depends on whether police forces will prevent similar incidents from happening again.
“There’s no question that we haven’t solved how we utilize the police appropriately,” Clark said. “Do we have enough? Should they be on cars or on foot? There are many, many questions about the utilization of police.”