Shootings task force makes first arrest

The New Haven Police Department’s new shooting task force made its first arrest Friday.

Less than two weeks after NHPD Chief Dean Esserman created the unit with the help of the State’s Attorney’s Office, the task force arrested Gary Williams for the non-fatal December shootings of Anthony Moore and Jermell Gibson at Poplar and Chatham streets. The arrest came after the NHPD received a tip in January from a Wallingford police detective, according to a NHPD press release.

Before the creation of the shooting unit, the NHPD’s Major Crimes Unit would have investigated the tip, NHPD spokesman David Hartman said. Progress on the case would likely have been slowed, since the MCU’s workload includes homicides and other pressing criminal investigations, he said. The shootings unit allows the department to devote increased resources to unsolved, non-fatal shooting cases, he said.

“I am very grateful to our partners in the Chief State’s Attorney’s office, the State’s Attorney’s office, the state police, the Department of Corrections, the Department of Probation, the Hamden Police Department and the West Haven Police Department, who have come together under the command of the NHPD Investigative Services Division, for their early success combating violence in the city of New Haven,” Esserman said in a Friday press release.

The NHPD launched an investigation after officers responded to a report of gunfire at 2:30 a.m. on Dec. 17 around Poplar and Chatham streets. There, they found Moore with gunshot wounds to his leg and arm and Gibson with several gunshot wounds in his left knee. Moore told officers he had been confronted by three men, one of whom pulled out a gun and fired several shots. Both Moore and Gibson were taken to nearby hospitals for treatment and subsequently released.

In January, Wallingford detective Shawn Fairbrother passed information about the double shooting to the NHPD. The shooting task force and the Wallingford Police Department took over the investigation in February, and secured an arrest warrant for Williams on Friday.

Williams was arrested in Wallingford the same day, and when police executed a search warrant at his residence they found a 40-caliber Glock and a Stag Arms 5.56-mm assault rifle. He was charged with two counts of first degree assault, criminal use of a firearm and carrying a pistol without a permit.

“The shooting task force affords detectives opportunities to go back to non-fatal shooting cold cases and investigate more thoroughly,” Hartman said. “[It] also relieves some responsibility for cold case shooting incidents from the MCU detectives that are trying to work multiple cases now.”

Led by two inspectors from the State’s Attorney’s office, the new squad set up shop on the third floor of the NHPD’s Union Avenue headquarters two weeks ago.

Part of the department’s rationale for creating the new unit was to ensure criminal incidents “don’t go stale” because detectives are “bogged down” with both current and cold cases, Hartman said. But it was also set up in response to the high number of unsolved shootings last year. When announcing the new unit in his Feb. 6 State of the City address, Mayor John DeStefano Jr. said it was “shocking” that only 27 of the 133 shootings last year had been solved.

Modeled after a similar unit in Hartford, the shooting task force also includes members of the Connecticut Department of Correction and the state’s Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

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