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Harp Vows “No Respite” After Teen’s Murder

by Melissa Bailey & Paul Bass | Apr 4, 2014 5:21 pm

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Posted to: Legal Writes

Melissa Bailey Photo Street outreach workers rolled into action Friday, family and friends wept on a rainy sidewalk, and the mayor huddled with high-school principals and top cops, as New Haven reeled from the second murder of a teenager in less than two weeks.

The efforts followed the shooting death of 16-year-old Torrence Gamble Jr. on Daggett Street Thursday evening. The shooter fled the scene. (Police are looking for a dark-colored vehicle that may have some connection to the case.)

Police responded to the call at 9:38 p.m. Thursday at 78 Daggett St. in the Hill. There they found Gamble, shot in the head, according to police spokesman Officer David Hartman. Gamble was rushed to Yale-New Haven Hospital, where he underwent surgery. He was pronounced dead at 3:15 a.m. He was 16 years old. He attended Riverside Academy.

Police are just starting their investigation. They ask anyone with information to call (203) 946-6304.

Lt. Rachel Cain said Friday afternoon that the police do not yet have any “solid” suspects or motives.

“A lot of information is coming in. We’re following a lot of leads,” she said.

Last week a 17-year-old New Havener, Taijhon Washington, was shot dead, also in the head at Lilac and Butler streets.

Gamble, who went by the nickname “TJ” for Torrence Jr., had attended Taijhon’s funeral just Wednesday morning, according to Nakia Dawson, TJ’s aunt. Dawson was one of dozens of family and friends who gathered in the rain at 7 p.m. Friday night to hold a vigil at the spot where TJ was killed.

The grief was too much for some to bear.

“That’s my brother!” cried out a young woman, doubling over in tears.

Others bent to place candles in a sidewalk memorial.

Tyisha Walker, an alder in the West River neighborhood, spoke while family and friends gathered in a circle, holding hands. Walker is TJ’s cousin.

“I’m tired of doing this. I’m tired of going to different corners. ... I’m tired of people in my family dying,” Walker said.

“The power is in everybody that’s standing right here,” she said, addressing the young people in the crowd. “You’ve just got to make a decision—whether you want to be on another corner with some candles next week saying the same thing, ‘I can’t take this no more,’ or” else go to school and leave the street life alone.

TJ’s grandfather, Abraham Gallishaw (pictured), arrived later and led the group in prayer. He asked the group to hold hands again.

“If we don’t stand for one another tonight, we’re going to be lost like my grandson TJ,” he said. “It’s a wake-up call for all of us.”

Harp Meets With Principals

“New Haven is once again struck by sadness today after one of its children was struck by gunfire and killed last night – the latest example of heartbreaking violence on our city streets,” Mayor Toni Harp stated in a release Friday afternoon. “These victims are children of the city, the causes of this youth violence are complex, and the tools of this violence are far too easy to obtain and use.”

“There is no respite in our resolve to address the matter.”

Harp’s office issued the release after she met with high school principals and police officials to discuss a response to the latest murder.

Meanwhile, street outreach workers went to Yale-New Haven following the shooting and spent Friday fanning out to meet with the families involved and young people who might have a connection to the case, according to Shirley Ellis-West, who runs the program out of the Family Alliance organization. One goal is to try to prevent any potential retaliatory shootings.

“We were at the hospital last night. We are talking to families and kids today. It’s what we do” after any shooting involving young people, Ellis-West said.

The mayor has also asked “teachers, coaches, and principals, [and] members of the clergy ... to go door-to-door and meet families so we can better understand and support their needs, and so they can help us identify the resources that will lead to peace and safety for our children,” according to the press statement.

Allan Appel Photo The shooting was the second blow to students at Riverside Academy, some 20 of whom attended the funeral earlier this week of Taijhon Washington. Washington, who lived in Hamden, briefly attended Hillhouse High School for part of last school year. He was friendly with many Riverside students. (Read about that here.)

The scene was tense Friday in the parking lot of Riverside Academy, at 560 Ella Grasso Blvd., as students streamed out of the building around 1 p.m.

One student, speaking in the parking lot outside the school, recalled TJ as a “nice guy” from Newhallville who played on the Riverside basketball team. Torrence, a sophomore, wore jersey #1, the student said.

The student was interrupted by a school security guard inside Riverside who opened the door and screamed at him not to talk to the press. Other students nearby taunted him and warned that school staff had said not to “snitch.”

The security guard also beckoned another student inside and instructed him not to talk to the press.

Principal Wanda Gibbs declined to comment for this story on behalf of her school.

Schools Superintendent Garth Harries said the system is providing grief counseling for students who knew Torrence.

Harries issued this statement:

“I am deeply saddened and troubled by the killing of one of our students. In two weeks, we have lost two young people in our community to gun violence—tragedies that extend into our schools and neighborhoods and touch the lives of hundreds of our students. The violence has got to stop. We must come together as a community and a school system and send a clear message that we will not tolerate this kind of violence. We also have to work harder to engage young people before they end up on a dangerous path. My thoughts and prayers go out to the family and friends of Torrence Gamble.”

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posted by: newhavenmom on April 4, 2014  3:33pm

How come this is not the top story?  This is heartbreaking - a 16 year old was shot on the streets of new haven and it gets a sidenote??  Last week the 2 teenagers who were shot also got a side note on NHI.

posted by: eastshore on April 4, 2014  5:53pm

My thoughts go out to the family and friends of this poor child.

If the mayor is serious about “no respite in our resolve to address this matter” maybe she could release the two trained police officers who are currently driving her around.  That would be a start.  At least it would show more of a commitment on her part.  This way the officers would be free to do police work, for which they were trained on our dime, rather than drive our mayor around.  In my eyes, her words mean little in the face of two murdered teens and two police officers who did not get the chance to prevent such tragedies.

posted by: newhavenmom on April 4, 2014  6:07pm

thanks for the updated story - It is heartbreaking but it is good to know the Mayor has a plan to intervene.

posted by: Noteworthy on April 4, 2014  6:29pm

The street outreach worker program is a waste of taxpayer money. They accomplish nothing, are accountable for nothing and their claims of success are greatly exaggerated. They insert themselves into these situations and pretend their doing something useful. How much money have we wasted on this hug a thug program? Chop. Chop.

posted by: Gretchen Pritchard on April 4, 2014  8:38pm

“The violence has got to stop. We must come together as a community and a school system and send a clear message that we will not tolerate this kind of violence.”

Man, I’m sorry, but that sounds pathetic.  I realize there’s precious little that Harries, or Harp, or anybody else, can actually do, and I suppose he has to say SOMETHING ... but what earthly good is it to talk pseudo-tough like this?

What can it possibly mean to say “we will not tolerate” this arms race, this macho turf war, this grudge-bearing and whatever else it’s all about, among kids?  It just makes the grown-ups look stupid, because we all know bloody well it can, and will, happen again.  And again.  And again. 

Until this nation gets over its idiotic blindness about guns, drugs, race, and poverty.

posted by: Brian L. Jenkins on April 4, 2014  8:44pm

Toni Harp ran for mayor knowing that the city streets have been unsafe for kids for years.  Now she’s the mayor and has absolutely nothing to offer this scourge that has consumed the city.

Lip service and attending funerals is all she has to offer. Please?

I can’t just blame her tepid response to the seriousness of this problem, but the Entertainment Association for the Advancement of Certain People seem to be deaf on this also.

Create apprenticeship programs and open all community schools for after school and evening activities.  No, it isn’t much, but her DeStefano approach offers absolutely nothing.

posted by: LookOut on April 4, 2014  11:57pm

during election season, Harp promised that under her watch, the city would become safer and that she would bring everyone together to end the culture of violence….I’d like to hear her real response to recent events.

posted by: Bradley on April 5, 2014  6:05am

On a side note, what’s with the security guard telling the students not to talk with the press in a public space?

posted by: Tell The Truth on April 5, 2014  9:18am

This is heartbreaking!  The pain these families go through is unreal, but we have to look at the families as the root of our problems as a community.
What can the mayor, the police, the outreach workers, or the school system actually do to stop this violence?  Programs don’t change mindset!
I’m disappointed that the blame is placed on institutions rather than the foundation of us all…our family units!
As a community we must start this healing and this fixing in our own living rooms!!
Praying for the souls of the lost and for peace in the families of the deceased.

posted by: anonymous on April 5, 2014  9:48am

The poll is silly. Raising taxes (rent) on low income working families to pay cops who 80-90% live out of town, is most definitely not the way to reduce violence.

How about hiring all the young men that we’ve laid off in parks & public works maintenance in order to pay relatively more to administrators and City Hall**? 

Giving economic opportunities for young men in New Haven, not to more suburban cops, is the way to reduce violence.

Harp seems to be ignoring the past 30 years worth of citywide violence reduction plans, written by dozens of former police chiefs and local residents, in order to grandstand about solutions that simply will not work.

**http://yaledailynews.com/blog/2014/04/03/parks-public-works-in-crosshairs-of-budget/

posted by: alex on April 5, 2014  11:28am

Hiring new people for parks and public works is almost politically impossible when you have people like ROBN and “Public-Inefficiencies” going around talking about how New Haven is *understaffed.*

But events like this show how New Haven could use more police, more public employment, more trauma specialists and counselors in its schools, etc. New Haven is a city that as of today cannot meet its own needs and desperately needs help.

posted by: yim-a on April 5, 2014  12:02pm

It really would be a powerful political statement if a Mayor Harp were to announce,  “I am so troubled by these senseless deaths that I am asking the two police officers who now act as my chauffeurs to be re -assigned to patrol the very neighborhoods where those boys were murdered.”

posted by: Just a Question on April 5, 2014  12:24pm

“Gamble, who went by the nickname ‘TJ’ for Torrence Jr., had attended Taijhon’s funeral just Wednesday morning.”  Is anyone looking into the huge possibility that Torrence’s murder and two other recent murders are all connected?  Gamble was at Taijhon’s funeral and Taijhon’s girlfriend was the sister of Durrell Law, who was shot in the chest and killed just a few months earlier.  This seems eminently solvable, unless the Riverside Academy gets their way, and their “Stop Snitching” policy leads to a “Stop Catching Murderers” reality.  Riverside needs to hang its head in shame.

posted by: JohnTulin on April 5, 2014  2:05pm

“Other students nearby taunted him and warned that school staff had said not to ‘snitch’.”


Raising taxes and paying overtime can not change culture.  Nor can legislation.  You can not legislate morals. 

~~~~

‘No respite’, ‘We will not tolerate…’

And you can not just keep saying the same thing again and again.  Pathetic lip service.  It may appear to some that you are ‘doing something’, but you’re not.

posted by: NewHaven06513 on April 5, 2014  4:08pm

People we need to raise our kids with love. We need love our neighbors. We need to look out for one another. We need time to heal and talk with each other. Only then can we have honest conversations in our community. We need to stop making excuses and get real with each other.  The real answer to our problems starts at home, starts within…

posted by: state st on April 5, 2014  8:51pm

In the original story the reporter quoted some of the students saying the principal “telling the kids not to snitch on anyone ‘, if this is true she should be fired immediately,how many kids under 20 went thru that school and were murdered in the last 5 years if youd look into the statistics im sure it is quite startling.
jes sayin

posted by: BenBerkowitz on April 5, 2014  10:34pm

Total moral breakdown at Riverside as evidenced by security guards and students telling their peers not to communicate with the public.

“No snitching” may keep you temporarily safe as an individual but its murdering the entire community.

posted by: connecticutcontrarian on April 6, 2014  11:15am

Call me crazy but I don’t see a principal admonishing students not to talk to the press as being the same as telling them not to cooperate with police officers as a way of not snitching. Here’s the reality. Riverside deals with a very challenging population who are obviously connected to multiple tragedies. Aside from using this as yet another opportunity to criticize the Mayor, I wonder if anyone stopped to consider how having these young people give their name, picture, and other identifying info to a reporter may put them at risk for future harm. It’s easy for us to sit in the comfort of our secure homes and collectively shake our heads at people who don’t talk. But none of us live in neighborhoods where the mere suspicion of cooperation may mean a death sentence.

When do we start addressing how these repeated acts of violence are harming children in these neighborhoods who show up at school in the morning after enduring a night of he’ll and turmoil? Is it really no wonder that these schools are collapsing when these kids have to learn how to shelter in place amid chaos at home??

posted by: robn on April 6, 2014  2:52pm

ALEX,

While you’ve merely supposed, I’ve proven, beyond a shadow of a doubt, with census statistics, that New Haven has one of the highest ratios in the US of employees per citizen. Like our long history of throwing more money at the school system and getting few results, our history of overstaffing hasn’t served us well. Its time we did things differently (better) instead of just padding the roster and soaking taxpayers.

posted by: alex on April 6, 2014  5:05pm

Robn,

“Proven with census data” is a real stretch from linking to a Census table with county employment numbers. You haven’t proven anything. “Proof” would require an analysis of (1) New Haven’s municipal needs and (2) the levels of staffing in the City to meet them, with historical context.

The notion that any government is overstaffed after years of austerity politics is ludicrous and absurd. Weekly tragedies that we read about are evidence of something obvious: our cities need help meeting their needs. The tax base is inadequate, even if you include New Haven’s non-profit properties in the equation.

posted by: yim-a on April 6, 2014  8:16pm

We can talk, hug, preach and organize until the cows come home, but history tells us that there is one way to stop an epidemic:  cut off the source of the problem. 

In 1854, the father of modern epidemiology Dr John Snow discovered that the cholera epidemics in London were from bad water.  Clean up the water source and the cholera goes away.

Remember quaaludes, that nasty illicit substance of abuse back in the ’ 70s?  You haven’t heard of or seen it in decades.  Why?  Because the DEA managed to convince the factories that were producing the core chemical for quaaludes to stop, entirely,  No more chemical, no more problem.

No more guns, no more homicides.  We love our guns so much that we’re willing to sacrifice our children.  Until the guns are off the street, the madness will continue.

posted by: robn on April 6, 2014  9:59pm

ALEX,

I have no argument with you about a lacking tax base but that doesn’t change the fact that New Haven has among the highest number of employees per citizen in the country (your want of more public services (output) doesn’t really change the input math). I’ve done the math across those data sets and someday when you’re feeling motivated, you should too.

posted by: LookOut on April 6, 2014  11:31pm

very sad that portions of our city accept and encourage the behavior that leads to these events….but please let’s not be so foolish to think that knee-jerk solutions hold any promise.

Pouring more $$ into city gov’e is not the answer.  It will only give more money to the connected few.  We have too many examples teaching us that the money does not flow to those who really need it.

Stopping the manufacture of guns?  Please.  Let’s assume for a minute that is possible.  Are you willing to wait the 150 years it will take for most of the current stock to wear out or fail. 

If the next step is to make laws prohibiting people from having guns, read last week’s newspaper.  It is/was against the law for anyone other than MPs to carry a gun in Ft Hood.  How well has that saved lives in the last 5 years?

posted by: Scot on April 7, 2014  10:48am

Regarding the poll, I’m in favor of increasing the budget for neighborhood policing (and other initiatives that can help reduce crime such as mentoring programs and jobs programs) however I don’t think it should be done by raising taxes.  I think the cost of living in New Haven is already very high and raising it would be more detrimental to the city as a whole.

I hope the city can find savings through long-term debt-reduction, re-structured pensions (to be more like private sector retirement plans), reduce the cost of school administrators (more teachers and mentors and less administrators), or increased PILOT. Or any other ways our politicians can be creative to find savings. 

I hope we can find money in these areas so we can spend more on early-childhood education, mentoring, jobs programs, and neighborhood policing.  But if we can’t find money already in the budget then we can’t keep raising taxes either.

posted by: Jonathan Hopkins on April 7, 2014  11:16am

Alex,

That’s a terrible argument.

Should Bethany only evaluate its municipal needs, then fund them? Bethany has minimal service requirements and ample funding sources, so does that mean they have no further responsibilities except for what occurs within their municipal boundaries?

Should Westville evaluate its neighborhood service needs, then fund them separately from New Haven? Westville would pay way less taxes if its only responsibility was for services within its own neighborhood.

Should Newhallville evaluate its neighborhood service needs, then fund its government staffing needs?

Asking New Haven to fund its service needs is as ridiculous as asking Fair Haven to fund its own services. New Haven is but one place within an interdependent region and it cannot be expected to operate independently and self-sufficiently without major regional reform.

I think the argument that robn and others have made is that we cannot fund our way out of problems and milking more money out of properties in the city will do more long-term damage than good. Others have made the reverse argument, but I think have failed to recognize New Haven’s unique role within the region as a principle limiting factor in its ability to address problems and fund services.

posted by: budman on April 7, 2014  11:26am

to NHI.  Your question is poorly executed.  The way you posed your questions means that the only way to get more police presence is through a tax increase - and it also leads in the direction that the gun violence can only be solved by more police presence or overtime.  I don’t believe either to be the case.  I think it is better allocation of overall city resources and to combat gun violence we need a specific approach.  It is not going to be solved by throwing more money at the police department.

posted by: elmcityresident on April 7, 2014  11:58am

RIP LIL TORRANCE…on another note has the police lookied into both families making sure its not retailiation / another note i agree that the outreach progrma is NO GOOD HALF are still in the streets! are they really helping these young kids out??that whole program is a joke! 
They can have as many vigils as they want but it won’t stop it keeps happeneing! is there really a solution!
Another note they BETTER not raise taxes on low income for these out-of-state cops to beat our kids and harrass any black person

posted by: STANDUP on April 7, 2014  12:39pm

What about starting with a curfew?

posted by: connecticutcontrarian on April 7, 2014  1:39pm

A curfew may seem like a good idea but in reality will do very little to curb this type of behavior. Police officers already complain that they are understaffed and New Haven residents complain that we are overtaxed. Who would be responsible for enforcing this curfew? Given the manpower concerns, police would be forced to target select neighborhoods for enforcement which could lead to claims of discrimination. I can already see the ACLU lining up to protest a curfew as a violation. Many of these shootings have occurred in broad daylight and others before 11pm when most curfews would actually kick in. I think we need a multipronged strategy that increases community investment, job development, and police enforcement.

I’d like to see Mayor Harp demand an empirical analysis of the impact of the Street Outreach Workers program. Anecdotes are nice but not falsifiable.

posted by: Brian L. Jenkins on April 7, 2014  5:49pm

Additionally…

During this unfortunate common occurrence of violence, we are yet to hear from the plastic leadership of the Board of Alderman, the clergy, state elected officials or even those that challenged Toni for mayor last year.

@ Tell The Truth, your comment “What can the mayor, the police, the outreach workers, or the school system actually do to stop this violence?  Programs don’t change mindset!”

Programs can be alternatives to crime and mischievous behavior. Thus, directly change negative thinking into positive alternative thinking.  2. The Mayor ran on ensuring that the city streets under her administration would be safer.  So ask her what her plan to achieve this quest are.  3. The police department can resuscitate the Police Athletic League (PAL) in high crime areas, again as an alternative to crime.  4. Regarding Outreach workers, I’m not sure as to what the criteria is in order to determine their effectiveness.  That isn’t to suggest that they’re not needed.  It is to suggest, however, that if they are making positive inroads, then they need to be paid more and the city is in need of more of them.  5.  As I alluded to in my earlier comment.  All schools (especially in high crime areas) should be utilized for evening tutorial, to building positive self-esteem, teen pregnancy prevention, gang prevention etc. 

The $1 million “twerking” that both Malloy and Harp performed on Dixwell Ave. last month, was Toni’s remedy in solving the huge crime problem.  Her definition of crime reduction is to tell the people she has $1 million towards a $14 million Q House project. 

When Toni re-installed the superintendent, she re-installed his policies also.  These are the same policies that have proven to be inconsistent city wide.  The poorer neighborhoods have the worse schools, why?  This design wasn’t instituted by this superintendent, but this design is certainly being perpetuated by him and the mayor who supports him.
   
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