Neighbors who heard the gunshot that hit a 1 1/2-year-old boy awoke to another surprise Thursday: a first-ever police shift line-up right out on their street.
Four rows of A Squad patrol officers and detectives from around the city lined up at 8:30 a.m. to start their shift—not at headquarters, as usual, but on Kensington Street.
They stood in front of the porch of 58-60 Kensington, where a gunman riding by in a car fired bullets at 2:31 p.m. Wednesday. One of those bullets struck 1 1/2-year-old Tramire Miller in the stomach —and ignited citywide grief and outrage.
Tramire’s condition had improved and was no longer critical Thursday morning, according to Yale-New Haven Hospital spokesman Mark D’Antonio. “Good news,” D’Antonio said. “He’s been upgraded” to “fair” condition. Tramire was feeling well enough to high-five the nurse who moved him from a gurney to a bed at Yale-New Haven’s Children Hospital.
Meanwhile, cops fanned out in the Dwight-Kensington and Hill neighborhoods through the night and morning following what a top cop called “strong leads” in the drive-by shooting.
And at 8:30 a.m., dozens of officers lined up to hear Capt. Joann Peterson call the roll and Assistant Chief Luiz Casanova give them their marching orders.
“We want all hands on deck,” Casanova declared. (Click on the play arrow to the above video to watch highlights.)
“The reason we’re doing this line-up out here today is because we want to reassure the community that the New Haven police department is on the scene. That every cop working in this city, every detective working in this city, is going to be on the case. A 1-year-old kid got shot in our community. Unacceptable. Unacceptable. Some of you guys are parents. Some of you guys are fathers, mothers, uncles, aunts. Pretend like this is a child of your family. I want this investigated like if it was a kid that belonged to you.”
A few doors down the block, Celena Jones woke up her sister Kianna Jones. Kianna rushed out to her porch in her sweats to watch the show.
She’d seen police line-ups “on TV or the movies” before but never in person, Kianna said.
“I thought they was gonna bust somebody’s house in” at first, she said. Then she saw the lectern.
“Thank God they’re coming here,” she said. “It should have been sooner.”
“It’s good,” said a neighborhood contractor who stood right behind the line-up, watching. He declined to give his name. “But it’s like a war zone. These drug dealers don’t care about show time.”
Chief Dean Esserman, who also addressed the line-up, said he had previously held an out-in-the-street line-up following a major crime when he ran Providence’s department. “I stole the idea from London [police],” he said. He had told Assistant Chief Casanova about it. Casanova remembered the idea and decided Tramire’s shooting was the right time to try it out.
Elisa Castillo hopped into her 1996 Camry right after the line-up and turned on the ignition—with trepidation.
The car was parked right in front of 58-60 Kensington; she lives there, in the same house as Tramire’s family. One of the gunman’s bullets Wednesday hit her car, right by the gas tank.
“I just hope nothing happens when I turn it on,” she said as she prepared to head for class at Gateway Community College.
The key turned. The car started. She went on her way.
Meanwhile, officers left the line-up and swarmed the block talking to every neighbor they could find, resuming the hunt for evidence.
Cops gathered back at the intersection for another line-up at 5 p.m., at the beginning of the evening shift. Assistant Chief Casanova and Chief Casanova again delivered remarks to the cops, this time with a bank of TV cameras looking on.