City sees first homicide in two months

nightclubs

New Haven registered its third homicide of the year early Saturday, interrupting a 65-day murderless streak.

At approximately 2:01 a.m. on Saturday, the New Haven Police Department dispatched officers to the area in front of 39 Thompson St., in the Newhallville neighborhood, after receiving reports of gunfire, said NHPD spokesman David Hartman. The NHPD officers located Eric Forbes, 33, suffering from a gunshot wound to the back. Forbes, a Hamden resident, was transported to Yale-New Haven Hospital, where he was pronounced dead shortly afterwards.

Detectives from the department’s Major Crime and Bureau of Investigation divisions have commenced their investigation into the murder, Hartman said. A preliminary investigation has led detectives to learn that the victim had left the Taurus Café — a nightclub located at 520 Winchester Ave. — just minutes before he was shot. According to the account of several witnesses, Forbes had been involved in an altercation with two unknown men.

The nightclub, which is in the heart of the Newhallville neighborhood, has a checkered past. In addition to Saturday’s murder, the Taurus Café has been home to a series of incidents of gunfire, the last of which occurred roughly a month ago. On Feb. 15, two New Haven residents were shot when gunfire erupted outside of the Newhallville nightclub around 12:43 a.m. Chris Erkerd, 19, and Leonard Brown, 57, were taken to hospitals in the area for treatment and were released shortly afterwards.

In January 2007, Mayor John DeStefano Jr. identified five nightclubs that he considered “hotspots for trouble” — among them Taurus Café — and called for the nightclubs to be closed. The Taurus Café finally lost its liquor license in June 2007 after a lengthy fight between DeStefano and the club manager, Larry Livingston, in an attempt by DeStefano to close down the nightclub. But after Livingston secured a new permit under a friend’s name, the Taurus Café reopened in November 2010 despite DeStefano’s attempts to keep the club closed.

Saturday’s murder ended the longest homicide-free window since February 2012. In late January 2013, two homicides hit New Haven in close succession, the only other two city murders this year.

Saturday’s murder comes not long after the city reported a 50 percent drop in homicides from 2011 to 2012. The fall has largely been attributed by DeStefano and other city officials to the success of NHPD Chief Dean Esserman’s switch to a model of community policing in the city in November 2011. Community policing, which takes police officers out of their cruisers and puts them on “walking beats” throughout the city to build relationships with the public, began in New Haven under former NHPD Chief Nick Pastore in the early 1990s and was largely credited with the resulting drop in the crime rate.

According from data from the NHPD, the city registered only two nonfatal shootings in March, marking a 75 percent reduction from the eight nonfatal shootings reported in February 2013.

At this time last year, the city had recorded two murders, en route to a three-year low of 17 homicides.

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