Four homicides in the beginning of August disrupted an otherwise calm summer in New Haven.
On Sunday, the city saw the fourth homicide of the month when Darryl McNair, 58, died from a gunshot wound in his home. Other August homicides fell on the first, fifth and eighth of the month, claiming the lives of 26 year-old Tyrese Jones, 19 year-old Christian Munoz,and 15 year-old Jacob Craggett, respectively. These deaths come after a long period without homicides in June and July.
“We join all city residents mourning the violent death of this 15-year-old child,” Mayor Toni Harp said in an Aug. 9 city hall press release following Craggett’s death. “This heartbreaking incident underscores one more time the tragic potential of all-too-easy access to guns that have no useful purpose on city streets.”
With McNair, the year’s total homicide count climbed to 11, counting the Jan. 19 infanticide of 19 month-old Athiyan Sivakumar.
Of the four August cases, police have made arrests in just one: On Aug. 8, New Haven Police Department Chief Dean Esserman announced that authorities had 19 year-old Errol Godfrey-Hill in custody for killing Jones a week earlier.
“A search warrant was executed at Vernon Street, where members of the department’s Major Crimes Unit located and confiscated evidence related to the double shooting/homicide,” NHPD spokesman David Hartman said in an Aug. 8 release, detailing the arrest. “[Godfrey-Hill] was subsequently charged with assault in the first degree and murder.”
When police responded to the scene at Kensington Street and Chapel Street, where Godfrey-Hill allegedly shot both Jones and 26 year-old Troy Mitchell, they encountered their first homicide since 44 year-old Otis Powell’s in May.
In 2011 and 2013, the summer months, which include May through August, accounted for about a third of the year’s homicides.
But both 2012 and 2014 eclipsed that trend, accounting for more than one-third of the total from both years, allowing for few conclusions regarding the relative incidence of these crimes during the summer months.
Hartman declined to comment on potential increases or decreases in violence during this particular time of year.
This recent spate of killings, however, has led many in the community, like Project Longevity director William Mathis, to conclude that such violence is so erratic that it be difficult to curb.
“It had been relatively a quiet summer, until these recent shootings from the past few weeks,” Mathis said. “But those were unpredictable. I am increasingly convinced that the violence has no rhyme or reason to it.”
He said that, though he fully supports the initiative shown by the many antiviolence programs that have sprung up across town and are backed by major city departments, positive change can only come once those involved move beyond holding events and focus on personal interaction with those in danger, particularly younger citizens.
Another concern is the number of young lives lost over the past year.
Besides Sivakumar, six of the city’s 10 other homicide victims have been 22 years old or younger. Mathis said he hopes programs like Project Longevity, which mentors at-risk youth, will continue to help youth in New Haven.
“I am confident that the young men and young women who have taken advantages of the services offered by Project Longevity have made improvement,” Mathis added. “Are they sterling, law-abiding citizens? I’m not saying that. The process isn’t overnight, but I have seen improvement.”
The most recent homicide arrest made by the NHPD, related to a February murder, was made on Aug. 13.