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Clergy Speaks Out On Violence

Wants City Officials, Police To Work Closely With Residents

May 13, 2005
By STEPHANIE REITZ, Courant Staff Writer

A coalition of area clergy members pleaded Thursday for a halt to the violence in Hartford, calling for city officials and police to work more closely with residents to transform troubled neighborhoods.

Specifically, the Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance wants more residents added to key review boards, residents and police to rejuvenate their joint task force, assurance that a proposed "community summit" will come to fruition, and other steps.

Several members of the ministerial alliance gathered Thursday on Main Street in the city's North End to express concern about several recent homicides, and about the May 7 shooting in which a city teenager was shot by an officer.

Jashon Bryant, 18, received a fatal gunshot wound to the back of his head when Hartford police Officer Robert Lawlor fired into the car in which Bryant was a passenger. The car's driver, 21-year-old Brandon Henry of Hartford, was struck once in the chest during the incident at Main and Sanford streets.

Members of the ministerial alliance called for a thorough and intensive investigation, and asked city residents Thursday to "make sure that our responses, though extremely passionate, be also measured and reasoned," according to a written statement.

Lawlor's attorney has said the officer used "reasonable and necessary force" when he fired at the car because he thought he saw Bryant reach for a gun. The attorney, Michael Georgetti, also said Henry had put the vehicle into gear and was driving toward Lawlor's partner, federal agent Dan Prather.

No gun was found in the car.

Bryant's funeral is scheduled for 11 a.m. today at Mount Calvary Baptist Church in Hartford. His family and city activists will hold a rally about 2 p.m. in his memory in the parking lot at Main and Sanford streets.

Hartford State's Attorney James Thomas is supervising the Hartford Police Department's investigation into the fatal shooting, and Hartford police Chief Patrick J. Harnett on Thursday asked for community members to "reserve judgment while a thorough and complete investigation is conducted."

Members of the ministerial alliance recently discussed that shooting and other deaths when meeting with Mayor Eddie A. Perez, representatives from the police department, and some of the families of the recent homicide victims, said the Rev. Alvan Johnson, a member of the alliance.

In addition to the proposed community summit and rejuvenation of the community/police task force, alliance members want more residents added to the city's civilian review board and the police department's firearms discharge board of inquiry.

They also want residents to have access to talk with members of the Office of the Chief State's Attorney about important city matters and incidents; more diversity on the Hartford Police Department so it better reflects the city's demographics; and widespread distribution of a 1973 consent decree that required Hartford to take steps to be more accountable and responsive to residents.

Perez joined John DeStefano Jr. and John Fabrizi - mayors of New Haven and Bridgeport, respectively - on Thursday to ask state officials for more sustained help in city police efforts, including undercover operations to take guns and drugs off the streets.

They recently sent a joint letter to Gov. M. Jodi Rell, saying their cities had made progress in reducing crime over the past decade, but that they need more long-term help rather than only short-term assistance.

Courant Staff Writer Matt Burgard contributed to this report.

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
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