New Haven sees 21st homicide; set for deadliest year in a decade

New Haven is on course for its deadliest year in a decade after a street brawl led to the city’s twenty-first homicide Thursday.

Sean Reeves, a 16-year-old male was shot four blocks from University Towers near the intersection of George Street and Day Street Wednesday at approximately 9:20 p.m. He died Thursday at the Hospital of St. Raphael. Although authorities made an arrest stemming from Reeves’s death — 20-year-old Javon Hailey turned himself in Friday morning — some of DeStefano’s political opponents are citing the year’s high murder rate compared to last year’s 24 homicides, and 2009’s 13 as evidence that the city is not making progress against crime.

“The mayor has capitalized on excuses, blaming everybody else, including his own sworn department, parents, neighborhood leaders and the State…” mayoral candidate Jeffrey Kerekes said in a Aug. 1 press release following the city’s twentieth murder. “While he avoids confronting this reality he presides over a murder each weekend.“

Kerekes echoed these sentiments Thursday night at the Metropolitan Business Academy in a debate hosted by the New Haven Independent, according to NBC Connecticut. At that debate, which featured all five Democratic candidates, DeStefano defended the New Haven Police Department and its embattled chief, Frank Limon.

“The reason why Frank Limon is chief of the department is because he was head of the organized crime unit in the city of Chicago, and that work was clearly present in Newhallville with the R-2 takedown when we arrested 47,” DeStefano said, adding, “If you don’t want to respect me, I think that’s fine, I don’t have a problem with that, but respect these officers who put their lives on the line.” Watch the debate here.

Although the Elm City has not quite reached the mark of a weekly homicide, New Haven is experiencing some of its worst homicide numbers since DeStefano took office in 1994. Last year’s 24 murders tied with 2006 as the worst total since 2003. Both years the murder rate hit that peak, the city saw 8 homicides between September and December, indicating that 2011 might see more bloodshed.

As Limon and the NHPD grapple with this year’s numbers, augmented by an arson that killed three in March, the chief stood alongside the Destfano at a Friday press conference at 1 Union Avenue to announce that authorities has arrested Hailey for Reeve’s murder. He was charged with possession of a firearm, use of a firearm, carrying pistol without a permit, reckless endangerment, and unlawful discharge. Following Hailey’s arrest, the NHPD are seeking 25-year-old Owen Lehr for manslaughter.

DeStefano contended during the press conference that Reeve’s death was not a continuance of the regular pattern of New Haven shootings: he had no criminal record and the dispute was not about drugs, according to the Indpendent. Yet in addition to shootings, 2011 has seen a fatal home invasion and a triple homicide arson.

NHPD Assistant Police Chief John Velleca said the homicide took place during an approximately 15-person street brawl “over a girl,” according to the Indepedent. Reeves was reportedly not the intended target when two people, possibly Hailey and Lehr, started shooting into the crowd.

Reeves’s death took place near Yale’s campus. The 20th homicide of the year happened in the Hill area of the city. Daryl McIver Jr., a 20-year-old New Haven resident, was shot multiple times sometime in the early morning nearly two weeks ago.

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