Roughly 48 hours after the city saw its fourth homicide of the year, another murder hit the streets of New Haven Friday evening.
Around 7:06 p.m., the New Haven Police Department responded to reports of a shooting in the area around the Super Deli #7, a convenience store located at 1613 Chapel Street, said department spokesman David Hartman.
When the officers arrived on the crime scene, they learned that the victim, Richard Eichler, 26, had been transported by private care to the St. Raphael campus of Yale-New Haven Hospital, where he was pronounced dead shortly afterward.
Detectives from the department’s Major Crimes Division and Bureau of Investigation have started their investigations and are currently in the process of interviewing witnesses and collecting evidence, Hartman said. He added that according to the account of several witnesses, the suspect is an African-American man of short stature, wearing dark purple pants and a blue sweater.
Today’s homicide is the third to hit the Elm City in the past six days, after a nearly record-breaking 65-day homicide-free streak.
On Saturday, Mar. 30, a shooting in Newhallville ended with the death of Eric Forbes, 33. 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. Four days later, on Wednesday, Apr. 3, Asdrubal Bernier, 32, was fatally shot in front of 145 Wolcott, in the heart of the Fair Haven neighborhood of the city.
Investigations into both murders are still ongoing.
In a striking display of cheeky ingenuity usually not seen outside of two-bit daytime sitcoms, a New Haven police officer successfully frightened two wanted men out of a house by imitating a barking police dog.
The saga began in Hamden, where the two men out-drove Hamden police in a car chase before being spotted entering the mostly-empty house on Emerson Street in New Haven, the New Haven Register reported. After alerting the owner and third-floor residents of the house of the situation, the officers channeled their inner Monty Python characters by using the first and most absurd tactic that occurred to them: threatening to send in a police dog despite lacking exactly that.
Unwilling to be called on his bluff and lose all credibility, one officer epitomized “going with the flow” by starting to bark in what was apparently a good enough imitation of a ferocious dalmatian to scare New Haven’s toughest into submission. The men exited the house to avoid canine justice, and the police then arrested them, presumably while high-fiving each other and gushing about how they never thought that would work.
The men were charged with motor vehicle theft and burglary, with other charges pending.
After more than a year of negotiations, New Haven Police Department officers have voted in favor of a new five-year contract with the city.
The voting — which took place Wednesday from 6:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the NHPD’s 1 Union Ave. headquarters — ratified a new deal between the city and the over 400 unionized NHPD officers who have been working without a contract since the previous contract expired on June 30, 2011. The contract will include a wage increase and long-term changes to pension and health benefits.
“We brought back the best package that we feel we could right now,” police union President Louis Cavaliere Jr. told NBC Connecticut yesterday.
The turnout was high: More than 86 percent of the 413 officers eligible to vote participated in yesterday’s balloting, with 247 votes in favor of the new contract.
The approved contract — which will begin retroactively on July 1, 2011, and will last until June 30, 2016 — will raise the pay of New Haven cops by 9 percent over five years while allowing the city certain long-term changes in health and pension benefits. Under the contract, officers’ pay will rise by 3 percent in the current fiscal year, 0 percent next year and 3 percent in the years 2015 and 2016, while monthly health premiums will rise for officers who retire after 2014. Instead of a flat $135 monthly health premium, all retirees will be required to pay the same premium they were paying at the time of retirement, with a 6 percent increase a year. Medical premiums will also increase by 7 percent for current officers.
The new contract will also reduce the number of annual sick days from 15 to 12. However, current police officers will maintain their right to retire after only 20 years on the job, which was one of the major points of contention with the city. The 20-year retirement benefit will not hold true for new police officers, who will have to spend 25 years in service before retiring under the new contract. New hires and current cadets will also be denied some of the benefits enjoyed by current police officers, Cavaliere said.
The new contract comes after months of uncertainty during which the police union seemed unable to settle on a contract with the city. Negotiations appeared to have hit a dead end, as the city pushed for pension and medical benefits concessions that Cavaliere described as “unfair” in August 2012.
A tentative agreement between the city’s police union and the city was reached two weeks ago, on Jan. 24, when Mayor John DeStefano Jr. called the deal “fair but competitive” in an official announcement.
“It will allow us to attract the best and the brightest to the New Haven Police Department by compensating them fairly, while saving the taxpayers of the city money,” DeStefano said.
Upon reaching an agreement with City Hall, Cavaliere organized a “double meeting” last week with a union attorney and medical experts to explain the details of the contract before yesterday’s ratification vote.
The group, dubbed the “New Haven 10,” argued their case at the New Haven Superior Court on Monday, contending that the results of a 2011 promotional test should be voided because they override the results of a 2009 exam that the city unlawfully let expire after only one year, thereby denying the officers their rightful promotions. But the “status conference” — as it was dubbed by its participants — succeeded merely in scheduling a future hearing to decide on the injunction.
The real action, however, came in the hallway outside of the courtroom when the city’s lawyers attempted to strike a deal with John Williams, the New Haven attorney representing the plaintiffs, to prevent the injunction from moving forward. New Haven Corporation counsel Victor Bolden and New Haven attorney Nicole Chomiak approached Williams and suggested they ask the Civil Service Board to certify the 2011 examination to see how Williams’ clients scored, Williams recalled.
“They suggested to me that we wait for the results,” Williams told the News. “And I said I would agree to that only if they agreed not to take any action on the results until we had an opportunity to come back to court.”
But Williams said Bolden and Chomiak refused his counteroffer, saying they were unwilling to commit to an injunction against hiring based on the results of the test. Bolden said in a Tuesdayemail that such a move “certainly does not serve the public safety interests of New Haven’s residents well.”
“If the results are certified, there is no reason to leave justly earned promotions on hold, while litigation proceeds for several months, perhaps years,” Bolden wrote.
New Haven Police Department spokesman David Hartman underscored the NHPD’s impartiality in the case but noted the urgency of sergeant promotions. The city is currently 18 sergeants short, forcing the NHPD to fill shifts by hiring overtime, Hartman said, adding that this is “costing the city a lot of money.”
Williams, however, remained staunch in his objection to the 2011 examination, saying it was skewed and would therefore be unfair to use for promotions. He added that it was “totally subjective” and easily manipulated since it gave greater weight to the oral portion of the exam than did the 2009 version.
If an injunction is not granted and the city goes ahead with the promotions, the 18 open sergeant positions are unlikely to go entirely to the plaintiffs, which aside from the “New Haven 10” also include eight officers suing over the examination in federal court. Once the positions are filled, the plaintiffs would only be able to pursue monetary damages, which Williams said would be difficult to calculate.
“That’s one of the problems because it presumably would be very substantial. It’s a little hard to calculate,” Williams said, noting that any monetary damages would have to take into account lost promotional opportunities, higher salaries and pensions.
Regardless of the outcome of the injunction, the result of the case for five of the plaintiffs may be moot. According to Bolden, those five scored too low on the 2009 exam to be promoted and therefore “lack standing to sue the City, much less seek any relief from it.”
The next hearing on the injunction is set for 9:15 a.m. on Dec. 5, six days before the next meeting of the Civil Service Board — which is scheduled to certify the results of the 2011 exam at that time.