A suspect shot five guests — all between 18- and 23-years-old — as they were leaving a house party that 500 people attended on June 28 in Hamden. An investigation has been opened and a suspect’s description has been released, but more than a week after the shooting, the suspect remains at large. 

“Certainly I don’t think any of us thought we’d be dealing with a mass shooting in our neighborhood this weekend. But gun violence of all types is something we need to take a stance against,” Hamden Councilman Brad Macdowall said at a June 29 press conference about the incident. 

At 8:54 p.m. on June 28, Hamden Police responded to a report of a “large group/large party” at a residence on 937 Choate Avenue, according to a Hamden Police press release.

According to the June 28 press release, officers advised the approximately 500 person gathering to disperse and the homeowner and guests were cooperative, beginning to leave the residence without incident. 

However, only moments later, multiple gunshots were fired into the crowd. Acting Hamden Police Chief John Cappiello said at the press conference that the party’s DJ stopped playing at 8:45 p.m. and the suspect began shooting just before 9 p.m. According to the press release, several hundred were “yelling in panic” after the shots were fired. 

At 9:29 p.m. Hamden Mayor Curt B. Leng posted an Emergency Safety Alert on the Town of Hamden Facebook page, alerting community members of a “shooting with multiple victims” in the area of Choate and Exeter. 

Officers located four gunshot victims at the scene. Hamden Police and Hamden Fire Department personnel arrived to the residence and victims were taken to Yale-New Haven Hospital by American Medical Response. Additionally, a fifth gunshot victim was driven to Yale-New Haven Hospital by a friend, according to the Hamden Police press release. 

The shooting victims included an 18-year-old female New Haven resident who was shot in the area of her right flank; a 20-year-old male New Haven resident shot in his arm; a 19-year-old female Bridgeport resident shot in the buttocks; a 21-year-old female Hamden resident shot in her foot; and a 23-year-old male New Haven resident shot in his thigh, according to an updated Hamden Police press release.

By Saturday, June 29, three victims had been released and the other two stayed for observations of non-life threatening injuries, Cappiello said at the press conference.

Leonard Jahad, supervisor of the Street Outreach Worker program in New Haven and Hamden, visited the hospital and met with the victims as part of the Street Outreach Worker Program. 

“Some of the victims were known to me. The victims are not known to be involved in any street-level activity. They were basically participants at this party and at the conclusion of the party were walking to their car and they were confronted with gunshots. So they are dealing with a level of trauma,” Jahad said at the press conference.

On June 29, Leng tweeted that he had returned from visiting the crime scene and was “deeply saddened, shocked and angry that it happened in our community.” 

“If there is anyone who has any information on the shooter — no one is going to get in trouble — let’s just find the person who decided they were going to open fire on the backs of five individuals,” Leng said at the press conference. 

In the initial June 28 press release, the shooting suspect was described as a “black man, 20’s, facial hair located on his chin, wearing dark jeans.” A day later, the police released an updated description of the suspect: “Light-skinned black male, early 20’s, thin build, ‘pock-marked face’, small amount of hair on chin, wearing a black hat (backwards), tee shirt and blue jeans.”

On July 1, Hamden Police Captain Robert Smith told the News that the Hamden Police Department has received new information and is solely conducting the investigation. 

“I don’t blame the party. There was no fight at this party. I don’t know what the motive of the shooter was. But we have no indication at this point that there was some type of argument, fight, disagreement or anything once that person started shooting,” Cappiello said. 

When asked if the gunman was a guest or a random person, Cappiello said that he believes the suspect was present at the party, but there is no indication of his connection to the party. 

The homeowner has not been charged, but the Hamden Police Department is investigating if charges are warranted, Smith told the News.

In the updated release, Hamden Police reported that earlier on June 28, an officer advised the homeowner to ask the guests to leave by 10 p.m. to which the homeowner agreed, stating that he would have the guests leave by 9 p.m.

“These type of parties don’t belong in neighborhoods. This isn’t a backyard party; it’s not a backyard picnic. This is an event that charges. It’s is an event that belongs in a venue — a venue that we can ensure is safe by our fire marshals’ office, that our police department has an opportunity to review. We need to stop these things from happening in residential neighborhoods,” Leng said at the press conference about the incident. 

Addressing parties that are not only large and loud but “commercial,” Leng said that the city is going to work on getting these events out of neighborhoods and into venues. He said that Hamden is not going to “stand and cross its fingers that this is not going to happen again.”

In a Town of Hamden Facebook post, Leng and Cappiello urged all residents or “anyone who might have witnessed the shooting this evening, heard anything about the issues surrounding it, have photos, names or video of the incident or information on the identity of the shooter and any other related information regarding to the shooting that occurred this evening on Choate Avenue” to please contact the Hamden Police with any information, large or small. 

“What happened yesterday was an atrocity. It’s not okay. It’s not permissible. And we are going to do everything we can to reduce the violence in the community,” said Jahad at the press conference.  

The Hamden Police Department headquarters is located on 2900 Dixwell Ave.

Sammy Westfall | sammy.westfall@yale.edu .