“R2” Gang Leaves Trail Of Violence

“40 Cal Al” was on his way to shoot a rival gang member. The cops caught him first.

That’s the police version. The police—and neighbors in Newhallville and southern Hamden—have their hands full these days with the gang that 40 Cal Al allegedly belongs to, a gang called R2 that’s believed to be at the center of a rash of recent shootings and robberies.

Cops say 40 Cal Al, who’s 17, was riding in a car that officers pulled over at Dixwell and Munson last Saturday night at 10:25.

The driver stopped the car, then sped off. He stopped again; 40 Cal Al and another passenger “bolted out” and led cops on a foot chase through backyards, to Shelton Avenue.

40 Cal Al “was gripping at his waistband and bending forward as he ran on foot,” Detective Elisa Tuozzoli wrote later. “Based on our training and experience,” the cops figured he had a gun.

On Argyle Street, 40 Cal Al “fell on the sidewalk into a fetal position,” then “remove[d] a handgun from his waistband area and dump[ed] it onto the sidewalk,” according to Tuozzoli.

“Gun!” she yelled. 40 Cal Al “got back up to try to run.” Five cops tackled him; he couldn’t break free. Cops charged him with carrying a pistol without a permit—40 Cal Al was allegedly carrying a .38—and interfering with police.

More importantly, according to Tuozzoli’s account, police prevented the latest of a spate of gang-related shootings that have plagued the black community: 40 Cal Al was allegedly headed to shoot members of the Kensington Street-based Tre Bloods to avenge a shooting earlier that day of another R2 member, the latest in an ongoing deadly dispute between the two gangs.

It was the latest arrest involving an alleged member of R2. Until recently most people haven’t heard of R2. But they’ve allegedly caused an increasing amount of trouble in Newhallville in recent months and emerged as one of the city’s most organized and lethal criminal groups.

A new police chief named Frank Limon comes to town to begin work a week from Monday. He has promised to make fighting gangs a top priority. He’ll be hearing a lot about R2.

Beef With Everybody

The 30-member gang has a longer version of its name: “R2 BWE Black Flag.”  BWE stands for “Beef With Everybody.” Black flag is a symbol of independence; other city gangs claim a “red flag” for affiliation to the Bloods, or a “blue flag” to the Crips. R2 stands for the western side of Read Street (especially around the corner of Shelton and Read, pictured), the heart of an area that the gang claims as its turf. The area includes part of New Haven’s Newhallville neighborhood and the adjoining Highwood section of Hamden.

“They’re definitely one of the hardest crews in town right now. No doubt about it,” said Tyrone Weston, who works with gang members as head of the Street Outreach Workers program.

“If you have a problem with them, your life is on the line. It’s not a crew that shoots you in your legs.”

The gang originally formed in response to another group of boys—dubbed R1—based north of Newhall Street on Read, according to Lt. Thaddeus Reddish, who lives in Newhallville and serves as the neighborhood’s district manager. The two groups would get into fights, an intra-neighborhood rivalry. Then R2 developed into a more structured, hardcore criminal gang.

The gang has been linked to at least two recent homicides, three attempted armed assaults on cops, 19 aggravated assaults, 78 firearms discharges, and 15 street robberies, according to Lt. John Velleca, who heads the police department’s narcotics and gang-intelligence squad. R2 members deal crack cocaine, but the gang isn’t involved just in drugs. Its younger members, boys 14 to 17 years old, don’t even carry drugs; they often attack people just to steal money, or to settle scores.

Older gang lieutenants, men in their 30s with rap sheets from a previous gang era, know the kids can get off easier on gun charges, Velleca said. “You catch a kid with a gun at 15 years old. He’s going to juvenile [lock-up]. He’s going home that night. It handcuffs us.” Especially under a new state law treating 16-year-olds as juveniles, he said. “It used to be 16, you can send them on the wagon. Now you give them a note and send them home with their parents.”

Since taking over as Newhallville’s top cop last June, Lt. Reddish has been on a mission to confront R2 and get the community to take it seriously.

Paul Bass Photo“I don’t hide this,” Reddish said. “They prey. It’s a pack. They terrorize the neighborhood.”

Random young people stopped at the corner of Shelton and Read one afternoon this week professed not to see R2 around the corner. (See the video at the top of this story for a sample.)

As they spoke, a boy across the street called out “Police!” Young men started walking briskly in all directions, stuffing small objects into their pockets.

Up pulled Lt. Reddish and Officer Robert Hayden in separate cruisers. They got out and started questioning people on the corners.

They do that regularly, Reddish said. He has made a point of regularly patting down young people on various neighborhood hot spots where R2 and other clusters of troublemaking teens claiming gang affiliations congregate. (Four groups in Newhallville claim to be Crips spin-offs, he said.)

“Right now you come by here [it’s so peaceful that] you want to buy a house. Then come by when we’re not here ... We’re trying to be everywhere at once,” he said.

Then he pointed to a little boy riding a bicycle in front of a Shelton Avenue home, and older people hanging out. That wasn’t happening when he took over the district last summer, Reddish said.

“We have to make them feel like the neighborhood has felt—uncomfortable,” Reddish said. “They know when I’m coming. They call me ‘White Shirt.’”

In addition to aggressive patrolling, Reddish has called on neighbors to help out. He said he brings up the reality of gang activity at neighborhood meetings. And he urges parents to check their sons’ tattoos. (R2’s insignia is a large capital R next to a small number 2.)

“If they go unnoticed, if people sit and say, ‘These are just kids,’ you’re allowing them to grow stronger and stronger. They need to be policed,” Reddish said.

Neighborhood gangs are a reality citywide, Lt. Velleca said. He estimated that a maximum of 500 young people belong to them.

Sometimes there’s a tendency to exaggerate their prowess: “The perception is these gang members, they all sell drugs” and have ties to national Bloods and Crips. Some do sell drugs; others commit robberies or engage in violent turf wars with other neighborhood groups, he said.

The majority aren’t as organized as R2, according to Velleca. They don’t have formal affiliations with national gangs; in a bust of one alleged Crips leader, police found gang rules printed out from a website. Gang activity hasn’t reached anywhere near the levels of the early 1990s, when police sent leaders of Kensington Street International, the Jungle Boys, the Ville, and the Tribe to federal prison.

Still, the gangs are real, and they’re making life difficult for people in Newhallville, Dixwell, Dwight/Kensington, the Hill, and Fair Haven, Velleca said. And R2 in particular has developed to a particularly dangerous level.

The gangs’ shootings have also become harder to solve, Velleca said; clearance rates on homicides have dropped 30 to 40 percent in cities across the country, including New York.

That’s because the shootings have become more random, he said. “An R2 guy will arbitrarily ride through the Tre and somebody will get shot,” he said. “The rule of thumb used to be somebody gets shot at 3, 4 in the morning, you look at their circle of friends. Chances are good they know who did that to him.” No more. It’s more random.

Meanwhile reports like this one, from Wednesday night, show up in daily police roundups:

“The complainant reported shots fired in front of this location. Officers located seven spent casings and two vehicles that were struck. Witnesses describe six to seven black males responsible. Three fled on foot towards Whalley Avenue while the others entered a grey colored vehicle which resembled a Camry or an Audi with passenger side damage. They were heard yelling ‘R2’ as they fled ... “

At the Street Outreach Workers program, Weston said he has succeeded in luring four or five R2 members off the street.

But that happened only “after these guys catch some cases and see they’re close to going to jail,” Weston said. He’d like to reach them sooner. But he’s competing against a big lure: “They’re making a lot of money selling drugs and robbing people.”

Tags: ,

Post a Comment

Commenting has closed for this entry


posted by: HewNaven?? on March 26, 2010  12:40pm

I can’t help but notice how similar this is to the Newhallville of the 80s, in terms of organization, with the veterans and ex-cons using these kids as workers. It’s pretty disgusting, but also telling of how far down that community has fallen. It was not long ago that Newhallville was a thriving, working class neighborhood, where the majority of residents owned homes and businesses and held reliable jobs down the street at the factories. There’s a lot to be said here about the loss of good jobs in a community.

If anyone’s interested, there’s two great pieces about late 80s Newhallville:

One is a book by Geoffrey Douglas, “Dead Opposite: The Lives and Loss of Two American Boys” (available at the library)

And the other is a two-part New Yorker article by William Finnegan titled “Out There” which was also included in his book “Cold new world: growing up in a harder country”


Both worth checking out, in my opinion.

posted by: Jay on March 26, 2010  1:22pm

Be careful Paul. The video you shot makes me nervous. Some folks don’t like reporters hanging around.

posted by: Notty on March 26, 2010  1:25pm

I would like to say thanks to Lt. Reddish for focusing on R2. They are a big problem in the neighborhood. I would also like to suggest showing more police presence on the corners of Read and Shelton, Read and Butler, and Butler and Goodrich.

posted by: NO NAME on March 26, 2010  2:50pm

You think you know…But you have no idea! R2!!!!

posted by: anon on March 26, 2010  3:21pm

Is the department still doing traffic stops like this on a regular basis, or did those end when Chief Lewis left? 

The city’s drivers have been out of control lately.  Stopping homicidal, antisocial drivers is a good way to reduce antisocial behavior and sequester guns.

posted by: notty on March 26, 2010  4:52pm

To No Name, what I know is eventually all things must come to an end. If R2 is making a name for itself thats good, because the Feds will be on you in no time, and count on it, you will do time for the terror you have cause in the community.

posted by: nameless on March 26, 2010  6:05pm


I don’t know nor do I think I know—by all means educate us.  What should we know?

posted by: Wait a second on March 26, 2010  6:28pm

I thought Chief Lewis turned everything around.  Yet it seems like after a year of him saying there were no gangs, as soon as he left we find out there were lots of gangs and they grew in number and violence while he was chief.  In fact the sudden uptick in shootings and murders were apparently all gang related.

In a city the size of New Haven we can have a good crime statistics year just by random luck.  Interesting that Lewis chose just the right time to leave.

Lots of community people tried to tell Lewis the whole time he was here that he had a gang problem.  But did he listen?  Did he work to systematically break the non-existent gangs?

Guess we have our answer.

posted by: Jonathan Hopkins on March 26, 2010  6:32pm

I second those suggestions.


Back in the 80s, the gangs (some of which are mentioned above) were locally organized and largely New Haven-based. The drug connections usually determined affiliation, while geographic border sharing determined who beefed with who. So for instance, the Ville and the Island had the same wholesale drug supplier and were affiliated with one another, but KSI (now the Tre) and the Tribe, even though border each other, were rivals. Part of that rivalry had to do with problems of trying to sell drugs on similar corners and one group having their profits cut into by the other.
These gangs were successful in keeping outsider influence, like Bloods and Crips, away. Bridgeport, for example, was unable to do keep Queens-based crack dealers out. When the feds broke up these gangs, however, outsiders moved in (mostly from Queens, NYC) and began tampering with the established dynamics in New Haven’s neighborhoods. The less organized mid 90s structure made it harder for police to control the problems, but the disorganization also decreased drug activity, which resulted in lower crime rates. Unfortunately, the 10-15 year jail sentenced 1980s gang members are now being released and are creating tension between the outside influence and the old New Haven-based structures of gang activity that these convicts were used to. Crime may increase as a result of this. It is unclear, at this point, whether the outside influence will prevail or New Haven-based gangs like “R2” will take over again. Fortunately police are smarter and more effective than they were 20-25 years ago, so hopefully crime will not increase and ruin our 20 year 65% drop in crime from 21,000 serious incidents a year to 8,500 that we currently have.

The job center between Dixwell and Newhallville needs to be re-established with working class jobs; that is the only viable long term solution. Once the jobs are there, parents will be more helpful to their children who will do better in school and will be able to attract more high-end, high-wage jobs like what is happening with Science Park. What we cannot do is move on to that level until we address the historic wrongdoing of leaving generations of people behind when we sent our working class jobs to other countries.

posted by: Jonathan Hopkins on March 26, 2010  6:39pm

One other thing,
They’re called fists, use ‘em. Firing a gun can excite you for what? The 2 seconds that it takes to use it. Boxing is a much more thrilling exercise that keeps your adrenaline pumping and it tests your endurance and skill. It takes a tough person to take a beating and accept defeat, and it takes discipline to knock someone down and wait until they get back up to continue.
These punks have no heart.
Boys play with toys, men use fists.

posted by: Jonathan Hopkins on March 26, 2010  6:42pm

And another thing!
It sounds like these two groups were “fighting” and I think that its completely acceptable to do so whether its over a meaningful disagreement or because someone made a mean remark about another’s sneakers. However, the fight has to be fair, and it should be done in a private backyard, not in the street.

posted by: NO NAME ! on March 26, 2010  8:23pm

I love my R2 boys !

posted by: Chris Mc on March 26, 2010  10:54pm

Awesome reporting Paul.  Very interesting.  Video adds an important element.

posted by: asdf on March 27, 2010  7:36am

to No Name:
what don’t we know?

posted by: jamaswarm on March 27, 2010  11:09am

Wheres Billy White when you need him, he may have been a little shady but he did what no one else had the balls to do, dismantle hardcore gangs any way possible, the “law abiding” citizens of New Haven were much better off when he was around, they had nothing to fear from him yet we seem to forget that horrible era.

posted by: new haven resident on March 27, 2010  12:03pm

R2 gang members commenting on the articles here on this site now? Wow, i wish the violence in the ville would stop. i’d feel alot safer walking around(doing simple task such as going to get a haircut) if there weren’t thugs like these running around with weapons up to no good. I think i might exercise my right to bare arms and get a gun license, legally carry my own firearm around for protection. These kids are cowards, they wouldn’t run up on anyone who’s packin heat their selves.  It’s turning into a war zone in my beautiful city.

My suggestion is the people living in the ville to be vigilant and watch what their kids are up to, dont be afraid to call the police or even take some of these thugs down yourself. the police can only do so much, the people living in the area need to contribute

posted by: the truth on March 27, 2010  12:37pm

this some bull…..dont gas them up..they like when people make them sound ‘GANGSTER’ dont get me worng they do alot of shootings but its out of fear because they know that other “sets” on they ass so they do it cuz they scared…they dont make no public apperances..partys games clubs..no nothin they myspace/facebok gangsters they took alot of losses

posted by: Jonathan Hopkins on March 27, 2010  7:07pm

Wait a second,
This image is from the corner on Bassett and Shelton in Newhallville. It was taken in Spring 2008. The graffiti says “Read BWE”. So this group has been around for at least 2 years.

This is also from Spring 08 over in the Hill.

This is from Fall 2009 on Norton Street. Tre Duce is a gang that was active in the West River neighborhood back in the 90s.

It is difficult to determine how serious these groups are. The taggers could just be some dumb kids trying to be cool, or it could be more serious. The gangs are not nearly as organized as they were in previous generations and I doubt they will be again.  There are a lot of tiny, disorganized, unrelated groups mostly made up of childhood friends.
Tre duce has been about for 15+ years, yet crime has still dropped steadily over those 15 years, so I don’t think we should be worrying anymore now, then we were 2 days ago, or 2 years ago.

posted by: THE TRUTH on March 27, 2010  8:46pm

You have leftist politicians in this state like Michael Lawlor and Martin Looney and Toni Harp who pushed these new laws letting 16 year old juvenile killers with guns go home with mommy yet they want to stick it to law abiding gun owners in the suburbs with more ridiculous gun control that these little punks dont give a damn about.  Total hypocrites

posted by: C-3PO on March 27, 2010  9:22pm

R2 is the best! Remember when he shut down that trash compactor? Or fixed the hyperdrive on the Millenium Falcon . . . wait, what are we talking about again?

posted by: asdf on March 27, 2010  9:43pm

another question—-

who are state prop?


seems like it might be a rival gang to R2

posted by: Josiah Brown on March 28, 2010  1:35am

Thanks to Lt. Reddish, Lt. Velleca, and other police officers for their efforts.  Police, street outreach workers, and neighbors deserve the support of folks across the city.  Young people need to seize opportunities for non-gang, positive peer groups.  More mentors can help.  This is about law enforcement, parenting, education and economic opportunity.

Neighbors in Newhallville and beyond may be interested to know about a recent addition, the Literacy Resource Center (LRC) at 4 Science Park on Winchester Avenue, described in this NHI account:

Offering free computer classes, tutoring, and books, the LRC represents a partnership of several nonprofits:

*Concepts for Adaptive Learning (providing the computer classes, and in some cases free computers to families, while also working in schools around the city)
*Economic Development Corporation
*Literacy Volunteers of Greater New Haven (offering adult literacy services)
*New Haven Reads (offering tutoring for young people, and free books)
*Science Park Development Corporation
*The Greater New Haven Literacy Coalition, an all-volunteer umbrella organization communicating about literacy challenges and solutions, and convening forums of providers to share information and build relationships.

...from Newhallville to Fair Haven…

The Literacy Coalition and Junta for Progressive Action invite everyone to a Family Literacy Forum this Wednesday, March 31 from 5:30 to 7 p.m. at the Fair Haven branch of the New Haven Free Public Library, 182 Grand Avenue.  The featured speaker is Joyleen Albarracin, home-based manager for Windham Head Start.

RSVP: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

posted by: Anon on March 28, 2010  10:42am

Oh Please, jamaswarm, please don’t bring up Billy White.

The idea that innocent people had nothing to fear from him is just not true. ...

These were bad cops and that is just beyond intelligent debate.

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on March 28, 2010  12:25pm

posted by: NO NAME ! on March 26, 2010 8:23pm

I love my R2 boys !

Wake up people. No name is on front street.I bet no name don’t know any of them. In fact the name R1 and R2 are not new gangs.These gangs were in new york in the early 1980’s. I live in New York at that time and most of the gangs got there names from movies and morning cartoons. R1 and R2 got there name fron star wars.R1 was a Super Robot Wars Real Personal Trooper And R2 was the robot call R2-D2. You had another gang call Decepticons from the   movie Transformers. The Decepticons was against the Autobots. So this is not new.In fact I hope not but also at that time you had Female gang members called DeceptinettesI hope we don’t have that here.Look bottom line with this gang thing you better find a way to get to this kids before it get warm and hope it doesn’t spread to the schools.



posted by: angelo reyes on March 28, 2010  6:05pm

heres my remedy.talk to them. tell them your story (everything) don’t pull no punches.most people either grew up in gang violence ,or know someone who has. make sure they understand there headed towards death or prison.ask them to kindly not do this in your neighborhood.give them that choice.after that if their going to diSrupt your quality of life,your neiborhood,its not like you can pack up and move away, WHIP THAT ASS LIKE THERE GROWN MEN show no fear and most important show them what the back of your hand or foot looks like. works for me. ive seen to many kids dead or in prison and i wont ignore it. and for those who do at least call it in even if you feel nothing is being done.

posted by: JB on March 29, 2010  3:16pm

Tre duce has been about for 15+ years, yet crime has still dropped steadily over those 15 years, so I don’t think we should be worrying anymore now, then we were 2 days ago, or 2 years ago.

^^who’s “we”?  The people who live in this gang’s territory, many of them hard working and homeowners who can’t leave easily, definately do (and should) worry about them.  It’s all in the perspective.

There are good people in that area and many are parents desperately worried about their kids becoming involved- and so they should.

One thing that should be emphasized, these gang members are young, like 12-18.  Combine guns with a nothing to lose mentality and the fact that they make good money from dealing and stealing- well, you’ve got yourself something that won’t stop until they’re in jail or dead.

Let’s hope for long, cold spring and a real active police force.

posted by: Jonathan Hopkins on March 29, 2010  4:23pm

I guess I meant “we” as is the residents of the communities where these groups are active. I live on the street where that Tre Duce graffiti was.
The only point I was trying to make was that this article doesn’t somehow awaken the gangs and we should now fear for our lives anymore than we did before this article was published. If gangs were not a threat to you prior to reading this, then nothing in your life should change because these gangs have been active way before the article was written.
At least we can breathe a little easier knowing the police are aware of these groups and are trying to address the issues.

posted by: Johnny on March 31, 2010  11:13am

I guess now we know who beat that van driver a couple of summers ago, and why no one came forward. Hopefully the new police chief does not ignore this nonsense and allow it to get worse.

posted by: Consti2amend on April 1, 2010  12:15am

succeeddecrease you are really interested in stopping crime, then there is ONLY one thing to do!!
ALL citizens who can legally AND morally own firearms, should go to the NHPD and ask for the paperwork for a “concealed carry permit”!  They should also take classes in firearms use AND in “legal defense” issues!
Criminals will be the FIRST to tell you, they are FOR gun control.  Why?  Because THEY fear an armed citizenry!  JUST like “Bleeding Heart Liberal/Progressives” do!
They would rather we get robbed, mugged, RAPED, or murdered, than protect ourselves!  Maybe their {BHL/P’s} lives aren’t worth much, BUT WE Conservatives KNOW OUR LIVES ARE WORTH MORE {LOL} than either the BHL/P’s OR the CRIMINAL"S!!
When the NEW NHPD shooting range is built, WE CITY TAXPAYERS should be able to use it!  After ALL, WE funded it WITH our TAX DOLLARS!!
And I for one would volunteer my time as an instructor/range officer.  Well, at least for a few boxes of my favorite ammo, every week, anyway.
We should also have, if it is NOT done already, the NHPD assist ALL {who want it} store owners and workers, with learning BOTH the fundamentals of gun ownership, AND ALSO the legal use of firearms for one’s defense!
Along with this, we should offer the SAME classes to women!  This WILL help cut down on the number of assaults/rapes of women! 
If this suggestion is followed up, it is MY belief that the local news media should be included!  Do NOT show ANY names/identity of ANY participants!  Let’s keep that a secret FROM the bad guys!  With this “news reporting”, it is my guess that the number of reported crimes WILL decrease!
Criminals can ONLY succeed if they think they CAN get away with their crime!

posted by: Read Street R2 on April 3, 2010  1:05pm


posted by: Consti2amend on April 4, 2010  1:47pm

posted by: Read Street R2 on April 3robberies 2010 1:05pm


You may NOT be afraid of the POLICE,

You need to fear the Average, Honest, Law-Abiding Citizen!  Those YOU don’t know, that CAN legally carry a firearm, concealed.  It is THEY, who are the “unknown variable” in YOUR quest for anarchy!

Your “success” is ONLY because most people ARE unarmed {EMASCULATED} by the Bleeding Heart, Liberal/Progressives!  It is THEY {BHL/P’s} that have ENABLED you to get as far as you have!

BUT!!!  The neighborhood IS changing!  There ARE more and MORE people who ARE WILLING to “take back the streets”! 
We are sick and tired of the shootings, robberies, muggings, assaults, etc!

We are watching for YOU!  We have our phones AND cameras waiting to take your picture!