Article Source: The New Haven Register - Monday 5th, 2005
Shooting victims frequently clam up
William Kaempffer , Register Staff
NEW HAVEN — The wounded man knew nothing.
Shot at close range last month, he couldn’t
describe his assailant or provide detectives with any useful information,
even though witnesses nearby provided detailed accounts.
He said he had no idea why anyone would want to harm him.
It’s a recurring theme. A man gets shot and
tells detectives that he was minding his own business when an unknown
or unseen gunman shot him for no apparent reason.
"I think it has a lot to do with their mind
set. The shooting to them is just the price of business, so to speak,"
said police Chief Francisco Ortiz Jr.
"The victims do mislead you. They tell you
a completely different story initially, that it happened in part of the
city when it didn’t, that they were robbed when it didn’t
happen that way. They will sit there and say they were standing somewhere
and they were minding their business when they were shot."
Call it the code of the street, a distrust of police,
a reluctance for being labeled a "snitch" or a desire to handle
the situation in their own way, but a lot of victims want no part in helping
police find their shooter.
While certainly some are innocent victims of circumstance,
police said, many more are themselves involved in criminal conduct and
are well known to police. Sometimes, they’ve been shot before or
have been suspects in other shootings.
And detectives investigating the growing case loads
recognize that today’s victim often will become tomorrow’s
"These are folks that want to be respected.
They want a reputation, and quite honestly, they want revenge," Ortiz
Dr. Steve Marans, of the Yale Child Study Center,
said the underlying problem surrounding young people solving problems
through violence — and perhaps their reluctance to deal with police
when they become targets — is societal. A new generation of young
people are coming of age in "circumstances that haven’t given
them the opportunities to find respect and a sense of well being and pride"
in traditional ways like education or athletics or work.
"Too often when they’re left to feeling
insulted . . . violence and the power of violence becomes their only recourse,"
said Marans, who works closely with police through the Community Policing-Child
"This is not a police department issue alone,"
he said. "The families and the community have a responsibility to
be working closely with the police and helping to stop some of these situations
before they escalate."
The problem manifested in a recent spate of revenge
shootings that left one dead.
Last Tuesday, when two young men were shot in separate
incidents, they gave police little to work with. Later that night, a 22-year-old
was shot on Kensington Street. Then, when he died the following morning,
more gunshots rang out in the Hill, and another man ending up wounded.
Police say the four incidents are connected and
that the parties apparently all knew each other.
While it’s impossible to say whether the
last two shootings were preventable, police suspect that they could have
been if the first two victims had been more forthcoming.
"If the first two guys had been truthful about
what happened, we wouldn’t have had three and four," Ortiz
And if the underlying problem is societal, he said,
then the solution must be, too.
Many parents are terrified that their children
will get caught up in the culture of violence, but feel powerless to stop
One Stevens Street mother averted possible bloodshed
when she called police when she feared her son had a gun and was about
to retaliate for a shooting in Dwight Kensington.
Parents and the community need to stand up and
take an active role, rather than stand back and hope for the best, they
While authorities recognize "how hard it is
for families to feel like they’re dropping the dime on their own
kids," Marans said, the alternative is more dire.
"Think about what it’s like when the
family gets the call, hearing that their son or daughter has been shot.
This is with the aim of trying to prevent the heartache that goes with
injury and the grief that goes with death."
©New Haven Register 2005