Yale Daily News

Nine months after New Havener Richard Whitaker Jr. was fatally shot, New Haven police have tracked down and arrested his suspected killer. 

Whitaker was shot on Columbus Avenue in the Hill neighborhood on the evening of June 15, 2021. Police arrested 23-year-old Travon J. Hobby as the perpetrator. Whitaker ran into a nearby residence and was taken to a hospital after being shot, but died from his injuries. Whitaker’s brother, Dayshon Smith, was murdered in the Hill in August 2020. Relatives reported Whitaker had been standing right next to Smith when Smith was shot and killed. At a press conference announcing the arrest Friday afternoon, Acting New Haven Police Chief Renee Dominguez said police currently don’t believe the murders are related.

“It’s really good work, everyone collaborating together with the community and the Detective Bureau worked really hard to put this together,” Dominguez said. “We are grateful that we are able to be here today and have an arrest to give some justice to the family.” 

Whitaker was 21 and left behind a two-year-old daughter at the time of his death. He studied plumbing at Eli Whitney Technical High School and was planning to enroll in college. His family members were present at Friday’s press conference but declined to comment.

New Haven Police Department Detective Christian Bruckhart, who headed the investigation, secured an arrest warrant for Hobby on Feb. 23. He was arrested for ​​murder and criminal possesion of a pistol revolver. On Feb. 24, Hobby was taken into police custody and held on a $2 million court-set bond. 

Hobby was previously arrested last March by Wallingford Police on charges of first-degree threatening and second-degree breach of peace. 

On Friday, Dominguez noted that the city has experienced 17 nonfatal shootings so far this year, which is slightly up from 15 this time last year.

Police are also investigating two non-fatal shootings that occured this weekend. On Friday at 5:28 a.m., a 41-year-old New Havener was shot on Rosette Street. Police reported the man is in stable condition at Yale New Haven Hospital and Dominguez said at the Friday press conference that police believe it was a targeted attack.

The second nonfatal shooting this weekend happened at 4:23 p.m. on Blatchley Avenue Saturday. The 22-year-old West Haven victim was also listed in stable condition at YNHH.  

The city had also experienced seven homicides by this time last year. No arrests were made in 22 out of 25 reported homicides last year. So far there has been one homicide in the New Haven and Hamden area this year, which happened this past Saturday. 

City officials have expressed concerns over the recent homicide and continued nonfatal shootings.

On Friday, Mayor Justin Elicker said the city is determined to help investigations into these homicides and shootings move more swiftly. 

“There are many many families today that may be watching and feeling they have not yet been served the justice they deserve and our team is very committed to working hard to bring your family some sense of justice,” he said at Friday’s press conference. 

To aid these investigations, Elicker said the NHPD is planning to promote ten detectives. The ten are being presented to the Board of Police Commissioners Tuesday and are scheduled to be promoted on March 11.

Following a heavy recruitment push this past year, 44 out of 60 total applicants took the test to be promoted for the detective position. 

Sophie Sonnenfeld is Managing Editor of the Yale Daily News. She previously served as City Editor and covered cops and courts as a beat reporter. She is a junior in Branford College double majoring in political science and anthropology.