New Haven Mayor John DeStefano Jr. and Police Chief Melvin Wearing reassured a crowd of Dwight residents at a public forum Tuesday night that the perpetrators of Friday’s fatal gun battle would be apprehended.
“We’re going to solve this, and when we do, somebody’s going to prison,” Wearing said.
The New Haven Police Department and the Dwight/Chapel Management Team sponsored the discussion to address safety concerns in the wake of Friday night’s shootout at the corner of Edgewood Avenue and Orchard Street. One man died and five other Dwight residents were injured in the shooting; three remained in area hospitals Tuesday afternoon.
The meeting took place at the Dwight School — about a block away from the site of the shooting — and drew over a hundred residents.
New Haven police have already begun to bolster their patrols in the Dwight area, in addition to making sure officers are present on popular routes to and from the local elementary schools, Wearing said.
Wearing split microphone time for his opening remarks with DeStefano, who said again that the shootout was not gang-related and that the issues that spawned the altercation did not originate in New Haven.
“Groups of people had a beef with each other, and they brought it here,” DeStefano said.
Republican mayoral candidate Joel Schiavone ’58 stood to one side throughout the meeting but did not speak. In a written statement released earlier in the day, Schiavone said the shootings were unquestionably gang-related.
“What is increasingly clear is that the circumstances that created the crime wave of [the late 1980s and early ’90s] are occurring once again,” he said. “Solutions need to be comprehensive and more than the mayor’s nonsense about a random event, as opposed to gang-related activity.”
Joining DeStefano and Wearing on the panel were Ward 2 Alderwoman Linda Townsend-Maier, Assistant Police Chief Douglas MacDonald, Capt. Francisco Ortiz and Lt. Bryan Norwood — the chief investigator of the incident — as well as several other police and community representatives.
After Wearing and DeStefano spoke, audience members were quick to ask questions. Many wondered why the NHPD had not increased police patrols last summer after a handful of shootings in Dwight in one two-week period.
For the majority of the Dwight residents present, however, children were the most immediate concern.
Dzandria Edwards, whose 13-year-old daughter attends the Troup Magnet Academy of Science, said that she has to be more careful than ever in order to keep her daughter safe.
“I used to let her go out until 7:30 p.m.,” Edwards said. “Then I had to cut it back to 7 p.m. Now with the shooting, I’m sometimes afraid to let her go out at all.”
Ward 2 aldermanic candidate Joyce Chen expressed concerns about gang membership.
“We need to keep kids out of gangs in the first place,” she said. “We need to focus on prevention.”
David Watts GRD ’03 — one of Townsend-Maier’s challengers in the last aldermanic race and a former DeStefano campaign worker — said he felt much of the blame should fall upon the shoulders of DeStefano.
“I know how John operates. He’s focusing on what he did and not what he has to do,” Watts said.
“He’s totally off issue,” he added.
DeStefano left less than an hour after the forum began, saying that another community was expecting him. He did not say where he was headed.
Scot X. Esdaile, the president of the Greater New Haven NAACP Branch, said DeStefano and Wearing were doing as much as they could but could do more.
Esdaile called for forceful action to be taken against gang violence.
“We have to be committed to get rid of this nonsense,” he said. “We still need to go to war on this.”