“Tuggy” Brown breathed his last breath in a St. Raphael’s hospital bed, losing his life thanks to a bullet shot to his head at close range during an evening run to a Newhallville chicken joint.
Brown, a 24-year-old whose first name is William and who lived in Hamden, is the city’s first homicide victim of the year. His murder mirrors 23 of 2010’s 24 murders, and the 12 murders the year before that: a black-on-black crime.
Two men approached Brown and his friend Adrian Redmond outside Crown Fried Chicken on Dixwell Avenue in New Haven’s Newhallville neighborhood around 9:45 p.m. last Tuesday. Brown and Redmond had gone to the store to “get cigarettes and a drink” when the two men approached their car, according to a police report concerning the incident.
One of those two men had an ongoing beef with Redmond (pictured), according to several people familiar with the case. It’s not clear what the beef was over. “I am at the end of my rope,” one of the men allegedly said. Then one of the two men fired shots into the car from the driver’s side. Redmond, the passenger, ran. One of the shots hit Redmond in the left elbow; he’s currently recovering from the injury. Another shot hit Brown, the driver, in the head, at close range.
Brown was kept on life-support at the Hospital of St. Raphael. At 6:42 p.m. Sunday, he was pronounced dead.
Earlier, on Friday, police had arrested a 19-year-old Hamden man in connection with the shooting and charged him with first-degree assault. Police are now upgrading the charge to murder. He has been in custody since Friday.
Police assembled the case last week through numerous interviews with witnesses and with cooperation from the Hamden police department. Detectives Wayne Bullock and David Zaweski pieced the case together with help from Detective Nicole Natale and Officers William Gargano, Angela Augustine-Daye, and Mike Mastropetre, as well as the Hamden cops.
From the beginning the investigation centered on two Hamden men who hang out regularly at the Newhallville corner of Goodrich and Butler and go by the street names “Bolo” and “Tank,” according to a police report written by Det. Bullock. One of them apparently had the beef with Adrian Redmond. Bolo allegedly carried the weapon and fired the shots.
The cops’ first break came when they ended up in a Pond Street apartment where Tank spends time. Armed with a search warrant, they found marijuana and, inside a “fireproof portable safe,” ziplock baggies and a scale, according to the police report. They arrested Tank on charges related to possessing drug paraphernalia.
Numerous witnesses helped the cops place Bolo and Tank at the shooting scene and, eventually, taking part in it, according to the report. Redmond was largely uncooperative with police; “Redmond told us that if he were made to testify, then he would recant would he told us,” Det. Bullock wrote.
On Friday at his home on a quiet snow-filled street in Hamden, Redmond offered a partial take on what happened in a conversation with the Independent.
Reached Saturday, Brown’s sister disputed Redmond’s story.
Redmond answered the door Friday in hospital socks, Air Jordan slides, blue pajamas, and a black Columbia fleece zipped over his heavily bandaged arm.
Redmond, who’s 25, is a licensed barber. He works at his mom’s Dixwell Avenue hair salon. Both he and Brown have criminal records.
Here’s what Redmond said happened:
“I was going to get some chicken for my daughter,” Redmond said. He was in the passenger seat of an Acura Legend, driven by 24-year-old Brown, whom he’s known for 10 years. They pulled up outside Crown Fried Chicken, at 771 Dixwell Ave., at about 9:45 p.m. Tuesday.
Two masked men came out of the restaurant. One had a gun. It looked like a .38. They headed right for the driver’s side window.
“I’m at the end of my ropes. I don’t care about life anymore,” one of the men said, according to Redmond.
“I was trying to tell Will to pull off,” Redmond said. “I knew something was not right.” But it was too late; the gun started blazing. The man fired six or seven shots.
“They wanted us dead,” Redmond said. “They wanted us gone, basically.”
Redmond bailed out of the car and started running. He was sure he’d been hit multiple times. He ran and called an ambulance.
Redmond declined to speak about why the men would have targeted him and his friend. He said only that it was probably “jealousy.”
“We’re popular names,” he said. Others may have resented them, he said. “When you’re stuck in the dark all day,” you grow jealous.
According to a person close to the investigation, Brown was not the intended target of the shooting.
Redmond spent two days in the hospital. He said the doctors told him he was lucky. The bullet missed a major nerve. Getting shot in the elbow may have blocked a bullet headed towards his torso.
“They were aiming for chest and up,” Redmond said. “I’m here for a reason.”
Brown was not so fortunate. Redmond said he took a bullet through the forehead and was hooked up to life support.
While he hadn’t opened his eyes, Redmond said he’s sure his friend knew when loved ones are around him. He would start breathing faster. His eyes would tear up, his hands move, Redmond said.
Meanwhile, Redmond said, he continues to fear for his own life and family.
“It’s like a huge nightmare,” he said. He said he feels nervous all the time now. “I didn’t want to come to the door.”
He said his mother has been encouraging him to move down south, where he might be safer, with his fiancee and 2-year-old daughter.
There was a knock at the front door; his fiancee and daughter entered. From his chair, Redmond bent down to kiss 2-year-old Maddy, who waddled around contentedly, sucking on a pacifier.
As Redmond hugged his child, his friend remained in critical condition in the hospital.
For now, Redmond said, “he’s still breathing.”
On Saturday, Brown’s sister, who asked that her name not be used, said that Redmond’s story of what happened is not accurate. She declined to name any inaccuracies, beyond saying that his story has changed several times.
“The story that was given to you is not the same story that was told to me, my mother, my sister, or my brother’s friend, or the police,” she said. “And it’s a tangled web that he is weaving.”
She spoke of her brother as peaceful and beloved.
“Everybody loved my brother,” she said. “He was known for his personality, for the way he dressed, for his style, for his flair.
“He was a mediator. He was the guy who would jump between two friends who were fighting and say, ‘Chill, chill y’all.’”