Murder At Burger King; Arrest Follows Standoff

Paul Bass Photo(Updated) With two fleeing eyewitnesses to a murder holed up in a house on Orchard Street, and cops stationed outside with guns at the ready, SWAT negotiator Officer Dave Hartman grabbed a bullhorn and turned it on.

“Come out through the front door,” he ordered. “Do it now.”

Twenty minutes later, two young men walked out of the house and surrendered to police.

Police arrested one of the men, who’s 18, and charged him with murder. “Right now the motive is questionable, although police do not believe it’s a robbery,” said Sgt. Al Vazquez.

The surrender of the two men was the culmination of a tense standoff following a homicide at the Whalley Avenue Burger King across from Stop and Shop Monday night.

It happened at 7:21 p.m. Burger King manager Gerald Leon (pictured) found a man, Donald Bradley, shot behind his restaurant, in the drive-through lane. Police believe Bradley had a disagreement there with several young men who were in a car with him; the argument continued outside the car, where one of the men shot Bradley in the chest. The men fled the scene.

Two of the fleeing men—teens, actually—surrendered at 10:08 p.m. Immediately afterward, police SWAT entered the house the teens had been hiding in, on Orchard Street between Whalley Avenue and Dickerman Street.

Manager Leon had just inventoried his 365th hamburger when he heard up to five shots ring out in the back of the restaurant. Leon rushed to the front of the restaurant in time to see three men running toward the street.

Leon then walked out the back door to find Bradley lying in his own blood by the drive-through. Bradley was on the ground in front of a Toyota sedan (pictured) near the speaker where people place their orders. The car was stopped right before the ordering speaker. Above it a clearance sign advised: “watch your head!”

“Blood was coming out of his mouth,” said Leon, who’s a 38-year-old Haiti native. “He was breathing.”

But not for long.

Leon whipped out his black iPhone 4S and called 911.

A handful of customers were seated inside the restaurant. Five employees were inside, too, and all stayed calm, according to Leon.

No other customers were at the drive-through. Bradley had not yet placed his order.

Police arrived and followed a report that the gunman or his accomplices had fled around the building to a residence behind the Subway restaurant at Orchard and Whalley. Police taped off the sidewalk from Burger King down Whalley to Orchard and called in the SWAT team.

Meanwhile, Bradley was transported by ambulance to the the Hospital of St. Raphael, where he was pronounced dead. He had been shot multiple times, including in the chest, according to David Hartman.

The SWAT team arrived and set up a command post at the AutoZone across Whalley from the Burger King. Relatives of the suspect gathered on the sidewalk and in front of Jimmy’s Urban Clothing & Footwear.

Chief Dean Esserman spoke with the father and the uncle of one of the suspects inside the house. He spoke with the other suspect’s grandmother. They expressed concern about their relatives’ safety; Chief Esserman gave them his word that the police were looking for them to come out and speak with them—and that the police would not harm the young men. He asked for the relatives’ help. The relatives gave police information about the teens.

Members of the police department’s new shooting task force arrayed themselves around the Subway, guns drawn. Police learned that a quadripalegic man was in his apartment on the first floor. They decided not to storm the building or use tear gas.

Using the bullhorn, Hartman ordered the suspects to come out. He told them to put their hands up and come outside one at a time through the front door. He called to the suspects by name and told them police had spoken with their family members.

“We want to make sure that you’re safe and that we’re safe,” he said at 9:43 p.m.

“We need to talk to you right now. Come out through the front door. And do it now,” he said at another point.

“We’re not going anywhere until we talk to you.”

On the fringes of the scene, meanwhile, police were keeping upset and boisterous relatives and onlooker away from what could have been a dangerous situation.

At 10:08 p.m., two suspects walked out with their hands up. Police arrested them. Three minutes later, the SWAT team marched across the street and entered the house to look for the third suspect and a gun.

It was unclear whether either of the two arrested men was the gunman. They went to police headquarters to be interviewed by detectives.

Meanwhile, the SWAT team searched the building to make sure no one else was inside. The plan was to obtain a search warrant and then have the Bureau of Identification comb the building for evidence, including a gun.

The Only Place Hiring

George Gonzalez (pictured), 34, got off the bus at 9:30 p.m., a half hour early for his 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. shift at Burger King. He was dismayed to find he couldn’t get past the yellow crime-scene tape to clock in.

“I need my hours!” he called to manager Leon, who was behind the line.

“I can’t do anything until the police give the all-clear to let people in,” Leon explained.

Gonzalez said he has worked at the Burger King for two years as a cook, cashier, and porter. “I do everything.”

Just in the last year, he said, there has been a shooting in the Burger King parking lot and a shoot-out two parking lots over. Another night, a drunken man threw a brick through the window when the manager wouldn’t serve him. Asked why he still works there, Gonzalez responded “It’s the only place that’s hiring right now.”

Sg. Richard Miller said it looked like Gonzalez was not going to get his hours. Police planned to keep the Burger King as a crime scene for the night and send employees home.

Manager Leon later said he would pay Gonazalez for a few hours’ work. Not for the whole night, though.

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posted by: anonymous on July 24, 2012  8:31am

Why do we allow so many drive throughs, parking lots, and gas stations (including another one planned by Stop and Shop) in a pedestrian-oriented residential zone with such a high density of children? They are magnets for crime and blight.

Turn them into gardens and make people who want a burger park and walk to the store, like they do at every single restaurant in our city’s other neighborhoods.

People wonder why there’s so much crime and pollution. The answer is right in front of their face.

posted by: LorcaNotOrca on July 24, 2012  10:41am

I’m all for details and painting the picture, etc. But “Leon whipped out his black iPhone 4S and called 911.”

Come on. Does there have to be a gratuitous Apple plug everywhere you turn? Why can’t we just say “phone”?

Anyway, this happened down the street from me. Never ceases to shock me. I won’t begin to speculate what could have been done to prevent it or where the blame lies, but it’s an at-times bad area and drive-through or not, stuff like this is going to happen. Sadly.

posted by: anonymous on July 24, 2012  12:34pm

Jhonn, I can hear your resignation that “stuff like this is going to happen.” But it doesn’t need to happen. As a city and state, we make sure that it happens because of our bad choices.

We need some real vision on Whalley Avenue to correct this issue. A jobs pipeline, and a failed school reform effort, won’t create the change we need.

Adding yet another drive through gas station—instead of something the neighborhood wants, like affordable housing and greenspace—will make it much worse.

Crime is a complex problem that the people in power, who hardly ever live in the immediately impacted areas, can’t seem to get their heads around.

posted by: Stephen Harris on July 24, 2012  12:41pm

The “watch your head” bit was a bit disrespectful. He didn’t bump his head, he was shot dead.

posted by: Curious on July 24, 2012  2:23pm


Not everyone has a car to drive to a different neighborhood and go to eat at a fancy restaurant.  Some people eat at Burger King.

We’re not all wealthy suburbanites, you know.

posted by: streever on July 24, 2012  5:19pm

I’m with you. Ew.

posted by: anonymous on July 24, 2012  5:29pm

Curious - that’s exactly one of the reasons why we should make the area nicer for people who live in the neighborhood and walk, either by necessity or by choice.

The people who set all of our laws all drive everywhere (tellingly, even if they just have to go a few blocks down Whalley).  So they don’t always seem to understand the perspective of people who don’t - a group that encompasses more than half of the city’s population.

Regarding the cost issue, see:

posted by: Babz Rawls Ivy on July 24, 2012  6:21pm

The issue here isn’t drive-up burger joints.  The issues aren’t really about a lack of employment and jobs.  Those things are just back drops. Those things are symptoms of a larger issue of community failings, family failings, human failings. Sure jobs would help exponentially, but there is something else here that never gets addressed…. a loss of connection to each other in community.  No regard for each other as human beings.  The incivility of all of us. The quickness in which young Black men have to prove they aren’t punks, or soft.  The hardness of young men who feel the need to strap up. The enemies are each other.

I am so sad about this.  I am so unbelievably saddened. Those young men who allegedly committed this crime have no idea what their lives and future will be like. They have no idea what toll this will take on their families and the family of the man killed.

Wringing our hands will not help.  Casting blame will not help.  We need the best and brightest among us to roll up sleeves and get to work. There will be more killings and senseless violence.  There is an anger growing in the hearts and minds of folks who feel outside of everything good, decent and successful. We have to turn this around.

There are no definitive answers…no one size fits all.  There is only shoot for the moon!  Lets try every damn positive thing we can put our collective hands on.  Today. Now.

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on July 24, 2012  8:21pm

This man has the answer.

Dr Claud Anderson Blacks must form a Community or Perish.

posted by: Jonathan Hopkins on July 24, 2012  9:22pm

Properties that have islands of semi-public spaces - like parking and drive-thru areas - located on the periphery of buildings certainly don’t help deter crime, nor do these spaces make surveillance by either the public or the police any easier.

I also feel that violence and general community degradation are symptoms of decades of economic decline for low-skill urban dwellers. When the steady and stable wages from factory work dried up, that’s when civic organizations began to crumble, local retail stores could no longer be supported, and socially destructive behavior like street robbery and assault became commonplace, which led to further civic erosion, middle class flight and lack of business investment. I think that economics is at the core and if steady wages were to begin flowing into the pockets of the city’s underclass, civic organizations and local retail stores would build up again and many social ills would evaporate - that’s assuming that the wages stay in the city to pay for local housing, goods and services rather than funding an exodus to the suburbs, which is often what happens without residency requirements, homebuyer’s programs, and rehabilitation grants.

posted by: Miss E on July 25, 2012  8:47am

@Babz- I agree with you 100%. It seems that in this day and time, either people do not realize or do not CARE that when you kill someone… It is FOREVER! And more than just one life will be taken. The lives of the family of of both victim and perpetrator will never be the same again.
Our communities are not tight knit like they used to be when we watched each others children and homes to make sure no one violated either. The day of people believing that it really does take a village to raise a child have gone. It is heart breaking to keep hearing of children dying and going to jail with the attitude that they did what they HAD to do. We’ve got to go back to teaching our youth the value of life and the benefits of living right. My condolences and prayers to everyone that this story touches.

posted by: Brutus2011 on July 25, 2012  3:55pm

As an educator and a minority, I have been concerned with our male youth. Our girls are doing okay—it is the boys that are in jeopardy.

Yet NHPS reform efforts do not address this alarming situation.

I have taught in the toughest schools in 3 cities. The toughest was the former Cross Annex High or the alternate school of Wilbur Cross (where Cross sent the students they couldn’t handle).

I became a teacher at Cross Annex.

And, I came to see that the transitioning of troubled kids out of the system to adult ed and the streets was a crime of immense proportions.

All so the mayor, the BOE, and the superintendent of schools could make their numbers look as good as possible and to avoid politically potential embarrassments.

The solution?

NHPS needs to invert its management structure and allocate resources from the bottom up and not from the top down.

Our at-risk kids CAN have a better future.

If they don’t, it is our (the adults) fault.

How many more stories like this have to be reported before those is power do what is right for our kids and not for their salaries, pensions and reputations?

How many?

posted by: anonymous on July 25, 2012  7:05pm

Brutus, I am not convinced that indirect investments in things like job training, youth programs, police patrols, or “better” schools will work very well in the long term. Investing in youth programs really means paying managers, who then go back to the comfort of their homes in the suburbs at night. Investing in cops means more cops out but those cops leave town at night as well, which may actually exacerbate crime by making it clear to neighborhood youth that they have no opportunities.

Why not use those hundreds of millions of dollars to directly hire parents living in the neighborhood? (and, unlike the “jobs pipeline”, using a residency incentive to ensure that they don’t pack up for Hamden as soon as they find a job)?

Directly investing in the actual neighborhoods and families, which means promoting housing, infrastructure, transportation, child care spots, and economic opportunity, particularly for young women with children but also for groups like ex-offenders and youth, seems to be the only thing that works.

For half the money we spend each year on the New Haven Public Schools, we could eliminate poverty among almost every family in the city, and still have tens of millions of dollars left over to have universal Pre-K, street lights that work, and a transportation system that actually connects people to jobs.

posted by: Blackadorian1 on July 25, 2012  7:12pm

I agree with a lot of what has been posted.  There clearly societal forces at work (poverty, lack of upward mobility, racism, educational inequality, etc.) that are root causes to violent altercations like this one.  But for me the biggest problems that need to be addressed are (1) the easy access teenagers seem to have to guns and (2) the inability (or lack of desire) to solve problems without violence.  Community leaders, the public school system and the police department need to work together to find creative ways to get people to turn in the guns and make better choices when resolving disputes.  I know that in some cities they offer cash (no questions asked for guns) and employ community activist (including former gang members) to resolve conflicts before they turn violent.