Just four days after New Haven saw its first homicide since Jan. 23, another murder hit the city Wednesday afternoon.
The New Haven Police Department responded to reports of gunfire on Walcott Street around 6:10 p.m. on Wednesday, said department spokesman David Hartman. When officers arrived on the scene, they found Asdrubal Bernier lying with multiple gunshot wounds in front of 145 Walcott at the intersection with Lloyd Street. Bernier, a 32-year-old New Haven resident, was rushed by ambulance to Yale-New Haven hospital, where he died as a result of his wounds shortly afterward.
While investigations into Wednesday’s murder are still ongoing, officers at the crime scene learned from witnesses that the shooter might have fled in a black pickup truck, leaving Bernier on the ground, Hartman said. He added that the city’s police department has deployed a large number of officers to search for the perpetrator and the suspect vehicle.
According to several witnesses, the suspect is an African-America male, between 25 and 35 years old, Hartman said. At the time of the shooting, witnesses say the suspect was wearing a dark-colored jacket over a white shirt.
Wednesday’s shooting broke out in the heart of the Fair Haven section of the city, a largely Hispanic and African-American neighborhood just a 10-minute drive east from Yale’s central campus. Traditionally plagued by crime, poverty and drug problems, Fair Haven was home to 10 homicides between 2011 and 2013 — almost a fifth of the total homicide count in the Elm City over the past two years, according to police department data.
Wednesday’s murder follows the March 30 shooting in Newhallville that led to the death of Eric Forbes, 33 — the first murder to hit the city in 65 days. Just a few minutes before being shot, Forbes had left the Taurus Café, a nightclub at 520 Winchester Ave., where he was seen having an altercation with two unknown men, Hartman said.
Detectives are still completing their investigations into this weekend’s murder, Hartman said, adding that the case is receiving much attention from the police department’s Investigative Services Division — the division typically charged with investigating violent crimes.
Meanwhile, the two recent homicides have lifted the New Haven’s murder tally this year to a total of four, double the number of murders at this time in 2012 but still down from the 10-homicide high in the first trimester of 2011.
Earlier this year, at a Jan. 9 press conference in City Hall, New Haven officials reported a 50 percent drop in the number of homicides from 2011 to 2012 — a fall that Mayor John DeStefano Jr. has largely attributed to city policies aimed at supporting youth programs, preventing recidivism and strengthening the police force.
Many of these initiatives worked in conjunction with NHPD Chief Dean Esserman’s commitment to a model of community policing — a strategy that moves officers away from their desks and puts them on walking patrols throughout the city to build relationships with the public.
“People talk to us: They might not talk to the 911 operator, but it’s amazing how they reach out to their police officers,” Esserman said earlier this year.
At this time last year, the city had recorded two murders, en route to a three-year low of 17 homicides.