Police Make Swift Arrest In Latest Homicide

Melissa Bailey Photo(Updated: 1:19 p.m.) New Haven’s latest murder victim was shot in an attempted hold-up by a 17-year-old who’d been on probation for a previous robbery, police said.

Police arrested the 17-year-old during a SWAT raid in West Rock at 4 a.m. Thursday.

They accused him of shooting a 29-year-old man to death just hours earlier.

The arrest took place at a home on Lodge Street. Police are still looking for a second man suspected of being an accomplice in the crime, according to Assistant Chief Archie Generoso (pictured above with the homicide victim’s family).

Officials gathered Thursday morning at police headquarters to announce the swift arrest. Over 40 detectives, plus patrol cops and supervisors, responded to the call of duty overnight, many of them pulling all-nighters working back-to-back homicides, Generoso said. On Wednesday, a store clerk was murdered at an Orchard Street market.

Family members of the latest victim, Lonnie Starr, joined police at the press conference.

“Today, two mothers will be grieving,” said Chief Dean Esserman said. “This good mother had to lose her son.”

“Violence will not be tolerated,” Esserman vowed. He congratulated cops on an all-hands-on-deck effort to bring justice to the triggerman.

Here’s what happened, according to police spokesman Officer David Hartman:

First, the murder.

Police responded at 6:37 p.m. to the Dunkin’ Donuts at 295 Blake St. on report of a person who’d been shot.

They found Lonnie Starr, a 29-year-old New Haven man, of Thorn Street. He was suffering from a single gunshot wound. He was taken by ambulance to Yale-New Haven Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

Police believe Starr was shot in the area of Level and Lodge Streets in West Rock. Two men shot him during an attempted robbery, according to Sgt. Al Vazquez, who heads the department’s major crimes division.

The victim drove himself and a male passenger away from the scene in a 1997 Buick Oldsmobile 88, Vazquez said. The driver made it as far as the Dunkin’ Donuts before pulling into the parking lot.

According to the state’s judicial database, Starr pleaded guilty to a third-degree assault charge in 2008 and a felony narcotics charge in 2009.

Patrol officers and detectives worked the case through the night. They developed information on a suspect back on Lodge Street.

They went to search a home there at 4 a.m. “The home was searched without incident and the suspect was taken into custody. A gun was recovered at the home,” Hartman wrote.

Because the alleged shooter is 17 years old, his name is not being publicly released.

Sgt. Tony Reyes (pictured) said police surrounded the Lodge Street home where the suspect lives and called on a megaphone for all occupants of the house to emerge. They did so without incident, he said.

The suspect is being charged with murder and numerous weapons charges, Reyes said.

The arrestee recently completed probation for a previous robbery conviction, according to Vazquez.

Cops also served a second warrant Thursday in search of a second person who may have had a connection to the crime, Generoso said. Cops searched an undisclosed location and did not find the person.

Generoso said another arrest may be forthcoming.

“We believe that the arrestee had an accomplice,” Generoso said. “Right now, we’re seeking another person” in connection with the crime.

The arrestee was sent to juvenile detention; his case will be removed to adult court, where he will be arraigned in private because of his age, Generoso said.

Esserman said he called in all members of the detective division as well as all members of the department’s joint state and federal task forces to work the case through the night. On Thursday, he gestured to a line of top cops who worked the murder.

“None of them went home to their families last night,” Esserman said.

He vowed to keep a “relentless” focus on gun violence. “Justice will be swift and certain.”

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posted by: HhE on January 24, 2013  9:39am

Well done NHPD.  Thanks.

posted by: Gretchen Pritchard on January 24, 2013  10:55am

Thank you for highlighting every single one of these horrendously similar, horrendously frequent acts of violence, almost all of which involve firearms.  Please continue to do so; we should be forced to confront them, and not allowed to just shrug them off as part of the background in our lives.

posted by: Laughingstock on January 24, 2013  11:16am

Excellent work, New Haven Police.  Overwhelming focus on those who commit violent crime (and their cohorts) is a brilliant use of resources.  Congratulations.

posted by: Truth Avenger on January 24, 2013  1:39pm

Sadly, as someone suggested in another recent article on New Haven homicides, the excellent police work comes after-the-fact.  We have to ask ourselves if we are content with justice or do we need to reach deeper to stem these incidences. I agree with a commenter above, we must not allow this violence to become an acceptable part of our community landscape. Like wallpaper that becomes invisible, the lives that are cut down and become statistics-so many words on paper. Families are left to pick up the pieces, but what do they do with them? We must nip this trend now.  What do our leaders need to turn this around?  What plan do our social health care professionals and clergy have to say about this? Perhaps the investigation will yield some answers, but either way, action is called for.  There is great frustration in not having the answers to the vexing violence at hand. Sincere condolences to the families and to the city.

posted by: Atwater on January 24, 2013  5:42pm

One has to question the wisdom of the “hook em and book em” mentality, especially when done with such speed. How strong could a case be if it’s only compiled in 24-48 hours? Wouldn’t such haste cause the investigators to make mistakes and/or omissions? It seems that the new chief wants to present a certain image to the public and in doing so he might be diminishing the integrity of the cases brought before the Court. While this tactic makes for good press, it makes for lousy justice.

posted by: Ex-NHPD on January 25, 2013  7:12pm

As usual, during a big Press Conference to announce an arrest, the third floor (Chiefs and Detectives) give very little credit to the second floor (Patrol Officers).

It was a Patrol Officer, who has worked for many years in Westville, along with a Patrol Supervisor, who gave the name of the suspect to the Detectives.  On almost every homicide and major incident, it is the Patrol Officers who produce the leads that the Detectives run down.

I do not see the Patrol Officers on this case either mentioned or in a photograph.  Were they there?  Were they even cited/mentioned during the Press Conference?

There is no “I” in Team, but there is in ISD.

posted by: JustAnotherTaxPayer on January 26, 2013  11:29am

It is easy to be critical, and this is what comes to mind when I read some of the critics comments below. In a theoretical society, or when one resides in New Haven, the animal lab of all of Yale’s Social, Psychological, Medical, and Urban Management expirements for the past 100 years, these type of arguments make sense, for academics. The problem with Academics is they feel the collateral damage that occurs while they futz around, forming commitees and arguing over punctuation in their thesis, is acceptable.

An example is the criticism that the arrest was too “fast”. The problem is that if a “predator” has graduated from Robbery to Muerder with a firearm, while the academics think about what to do this person could go out and kill several more people. And this has happened in New Haven several times in the past 30 years. Just research the young men arrested for multiple murder in New Haven, then examine how long it took for them to be arrested, and you will begin to see the correlation.

Now if one believes that additional deaths of inner city residents is nothing to be concerned about, then their foundation for thought on the subject is corrupted, as every life has value.

As to the other suggested aspects of getting the tens of thousands of inner city residents who are the living victims of these murders; the Mothers, Fathers, Sisters, Brothers, Children, Grandparents, , Aunts, Uncles, Cousins, Friends, Schoolmates, and Neighbors, mental health care, so they do not perpetuate the tolerance for Murder by Gun, as they see no other alternative, it was tried, partially, through the Yale Child Study’s help. But this was abandoned, and no one ever produced any statistics to determine if their approach was effective.

It is a possibility that there is a need by huge effort by everyone, the academics, the politicians, the police, those that Manage the Police, the spiritual leaders, and particularly the people who not only live in tough neighborhoods, but by those in the suburbs. Without this unity, where no one criticizes any efforts to stop the violence as wrong or inappropriate, the violence will never stop. This depends on those tasked with finding a solution. You cannot go into this with the goal of solving the problem so you can recognized as the genius that finally fixed it, for a resume builder.