Dead by Guns: One Violent Month
Harold Wayne Carver II, M.D., could not be more pleased. Asked to explain how guns work, the balding, graying, bearded giant in suspenders theatrically begins selecting bullets from the vast assortment he stores in a deep cardboard crate in his Farmington office. By the time Carver examines his patients, it’s too late to talk to them about the physical properties of gunpowder. By then, they’ve been toe-tagged and body-bagged.
“A gun is a device for imparting energy to tissue at a distance,” he says, the precision of his words contrasting starkly with his actions. Rummaging through his box, he absentmindedly holds bullets between his teeth even as he continues to talk. “First, it’s mechanical energy: The bullet going fast. Then, it pokes a hole and delivers energy to tissue as it slows down. The problem is that, usually, the bullet destroys things other than the tissue it touches.”
Carver is talking about the damage bullets do to the human body. As the state’s chief medical examiner, whose principal responsibility is determining cause of death of a who come to a violent or inexplicable end, he’s in a good position to know. But after 11 years as a forensic pathologist, nine of them in Connecticut, Carver is also aware of the broader implications of his words. Bullets do a lot of damage: to tissue, to families, and to society as a whole.
Year by year, bullets have a better chance of hurting people in Connecticut, simply because we buy more guns and use them with increasing frequency. “It’s very simple,” Carver says. “Guns are a pathogenic entity. They produce disease and injury in the population I care for. It’s like the more bacteria in the water supply, the more people get diarrhea. And the more guns there are, the more people get shot. That’s just the way it is.”
What follows are profiles of the 17 people who were murdered by gunfire in Connecticut in a single, randomly selected month, May 1991. Understanding how a gun kills is far easier than trying to comprehend these 17 deaths. Twelve of the victims were under 25 years of age, 11 belonged to minority groups, and 14 were male. All the known killers were male. Handguns were used to kill 14 of the 17; automatic weapons were probably involved in at least five cases. In addition to the 17 people mentioned here, 11 others used firearms to commit suicide, bringing the total body count to 28.
But statistics don’t begin to suggest the pain and loss that deadly gunfire creates. Some victims were drifters in the wrong place at the wrong time. Others were entangled in volatile, confusing relationships and didn’t have a chance to sort things out. Still others were caught up in gang feuds and drug battles, sucked into the underworld of street crime, perhaps for lack of better alternatives. If these 17 shared anything, it is this: All are gone forever; all are missed terribly. None deserved such a violent end. For all the arguments about how people, rather than guns, kill other people, most would still be alive had it not been for the ready availability of a gun.
From the front porch of her Davenport Avenue home in New Haven, Zdravka Crnkovic can see it all – where her son, Elvis, 16, played his last game of basketball the evening of May 8, the spot where he was gunned down that same evening, and the plot where he is buried in the cemetery across the street.
Born and raised in a small town in Yugoslavia, Crankovic immigrated to Connecticut with her husband, Miroslav, in 1972. Together, they lived on Davenport Avenue with their three sons for 18 years, working demanding factory jobs to pay their mortgage and save for extras. Crnkovic named her second son, Elvis – the first one born in this country – for Elvis Presley. He was, she says, sensitive, bright, hardworking, and destined to “be somebody.” A junior at Eli Whitney Technical School, Elvis was studying machine toolmaking and played on the varsity baseball team. After school, he went to sports practice or did homework. He was in bed by 9 p.m., friends say, and he kept his nose clean.
Elvis’ younger brother, Paul, 15, was having a rockier adolescence. Caught up in petty disputes with boys from a neighboring street gang, Paul was prone to fistfights, was on probation, and had dropped out of school. His mother was concerned, but she wasn’t surprised that Paul was fighting other boys. “Kids fight with fists. In every country, kids do this,” she says. What astonished her was that kids were using guns to settle disputes.
The family begged New Haven police to put an end to the abusive phone calls and the sprays of bullets that strafed the house, both results of Paul’s gang involvement. Crnkovic counseled her sons to look out for themselves, but not in a way that could do permanent damage. “Fight with your fists, yes, but not with a gun,” she says she told her boys. “Because if you start using a gun, that’s it. If you use a gun, you’re a murderer all your life.”
On the night of May 8, Elvis and Paul were outside shooting hoops after dinner when a group of boys drove down Davenport Avenue, spattering the street with gunfire. The target was probably Paul, but the bullets hit Elvis, who died moments later on the sidewalk. Police arrested several teenagers in the shooting, including Alexandro Romero, 19, Jorge Orta, 17, and Heriberto Lopez, 17.
A heartbroken Zdravka Crnkovic blames herself for her son’s death. “Maybe my son would be alive if I say use a gun,” she says, weeping openly. “Look at [the boys the police arrested]. They use a gun, they’re alive.”
Her husband has less to say. “You just write there: ‘We hurt.’”
Ok Kyong Fleming
Ok Kyong Fleming sometimes went by the name “OK,” but things in her life definitely were not all right. Divorced with two young daughters, Fleming, 32, of Bridgeport’s East End, was trying to make ends meet on city welfare while supporting an IV drug habit. To receive her monthly checks, she participated in workfare, helping to clean the lunchroom at Bridgeport’s McKinley School.
According to Fleming’s father-in-law, she was born in Korea, where she met and married his son, Duane. She came to the United States six years ago and settled in Bridgeport. But the marriage had broken up and Fleming had to make her way alone.
A co-worker describes Fleming as “hip” and “worldly-wise.” She “messed around with the crowd in the street,” the co-worker recalls. Fleming drank heavily, the co-worker says, her hands were often swollen from injecting intravenous drugs, and she often did not show up for work.
In the early morning hours of May 10, Fleming apparently met with Rodney Crosby, 33, also of Bridgeport. Police say that Crosby was on a kind of rampage that night, assaulting two other women before arriving at Fleming’s Stratford Avenue apartment. Crosby and Fleming argued, says Fleming’s father-in-law. “They were having some kind of business transaction, and it went sour,” he says. “She didn’t pay him for services.”
At about 3:15 a.m., Crosby, using his 9mm semiautomatic pistol, shot Fleming in front of her daughters, says Donald Browne, state’s attorney in Fairfield. He then dragged her outside onto the sidewalk and shot her seven or eight more times in the chest, abdomen, arms and legs. She was pronounced dead at the scene at 4:10 a.m.
Police arrested Crosby and charged him with Fleming’s murder.
Jean Beauvais, Jr.
Spring Valley, NY
Shortly after 10 p.m. on Sunday, May 26, Jean Beauvais Jr., a 20-year-old Haitian native living in Spring Valley, N.Y., was found lying in a pool of blood behind building 4 of the Monterrey Village housing complex in Norwalk. He’d been shot once in the back of the head at close range. In his pockets were a small amount of cash and a train ticket stub from Mount Vernon. N.Y. Hidden in his pants were 43 vials of crack cocaine. Norwalk police say that Beauvais was not armed. He had one prior arrest in New York for misdemeanor criminal possession of stolen property.
Beauvais’ older sister. Ange, 22, also of Spring Valley, describes her brother as “a friendly kind of person” who was finishing a two-year degree at Morrisville College. He wanted to follow in her footsteps, she says, and became a social worker. A few days before Beauvais’ death, the two discussed his career plans, and Ange promised to give him her textbooks.
Beauvais had come to the United States when he was a boy. His sister was not aware that he used or sold drugs, but did worry that he tried too hard to fit in, that maybe he went along with something just to be liked. “He’d be alive if he didn’t go down there [to Norwalk] with friends,” she says.
Norwalk police surmise that Beauvais was involved in drug dealing and was shot in a turf battle. Three weeks after the shooting, they arrested Renoita Jenkins at Roodner Court, a public housing project not far from Monterrey Village. Based on testimony of a witness, police charged Jenkins with the death of Beauvais. Jenkins, who is scheduled to stand trial this spring, has a “lengthy arrest record,” according to Norwalk police Sgt. David Wannagot. The murder weapon was never recovered.
Susan Page wasn’t sure what she wanted to do with her life, but she knew she wanted to help people. She had graduated magna cum laude with a degree in psychology from the University of Hartford in 1990 and had five years’ experience as an EMT with the Rocky Hill Volunteer Ambulance Association.
Living at home with her parents in Rocky Hill after graduation, she had worked as a receptionist at Immediate Medical Care Center, or IMCC, until she found what she called her “first real job” as a counselor at Connection Inc., a halfway house for recovering substance abusers in Middletown. At 22, she felt she was ready to live on her own, so she continued to work at IMCC part time to save money for the move. She was also thinking about earning her master’s degree possibly in social work or criminal justice.
Meanwhile. Page had been having some trouble with her boyfriend of four years, Michael Bevivino. A dispatcher for the Rocky Hill Police Department, a former captain of the Rocky Hill Volunteer Fire Department and an EMT as well, Bevivino, 24, was in counseling for alcoholism. According to Page’s parents, the two had broken up because of Bevivino’s drinking and were trying to sort things out.
On Friday night, May 24, Bevivino and Page had gone out with a friend. “They came back here,” says Barbara Page, Susan’s mother. “They seemed very happy.”
The next morning, Page’s parents drove to Massachusetts to visit Page’s grandmother. Page went to work at IMCC and afterwards went out with a friend from Bristol and his brother. Page’s mother says her daughter had known the man about two months and had been out with him four or five times. She says the two were casual acquaintances and were not romantically involved. Page went with the friend to his home in Bristol sometime after midnight.
Bevivino tracked Page down and confronted her at the man’s home. He was enraged. Page called Bristol police, who arrived at the house and escorted Bevivino away.
Half an hour later he was back, armed with two licensed handguns from his gun collection. Page took away Bevevino’s .40 caliber Glock and dismantled it, putting the parts on the kitchen table. But Bevivino was also carrying a .45, and as the argument escalated he pulled it out and wounded Page’s friend. He then shot Page twice, killing her. After that, he placed the gun in his mouth and killed himself.
Page’s parents returned the next afternoon and learned of their daughter’s death from police. “She didn’t have time to be scared,” says Barbara Page. “That’s what I want to believe. They said she didn’t hurt, that she never felt anything, and that helps me.”
Peaches Cole, 21, was getting ready for bed at about 11:30 p.m. on May 16 when she heard car engines running outside her Newhallville apartment in New Haven. She turned off her lights and her TV set so she could look out her window unnoticed. She saw three cars in the street and a tall man walking across the backyard. The driver of one of the cars seemed to call out to the man, who changed course and approached the cars. Seconds later, he was lying on the pavement, shot in the chest. “Oh, my God, I’m shot!” he yelled. It wasn’t until she raced down to the street that Peaches realized the victim was her older brother, Wayne.
“I yelled his name. He looked up at me. He was gasping for breath,” Peaches says. “By the time the ambulance came, I think he was dead.”
Peaches and Wayne, who was 23, were planning to move into an apartment together in a safer part of town. Peaches works at a West Haven nursing home, and Wayne had been working at Pitney Bowes but had to quit when his car broke down. The two had the kind of close friendship few siblings enjoy, she says. They went out to eat together, had long talks, went shopping, to clubs and to movies. “He was smart, very creative. He had high hopes and wanted to study engineering,” she says.
Neither Peaches nor her mother, Mary Bischoff, can explain Wayne’s death. Wayne did have a police record, they say. When he was a teen, he’d been in some trouble for stealing and then violating probation rules, which landed him in Cheshire Correctional for about two years. But, they say, he had straightened out and was looking forward to finding better work and going back to school.
“He was not hanging out,” Peaches says emphatically. “He was not part of the drug world, didn’t have a dispute over one block or another. It was not a girl thing – he was steady with [his girlfriend].”
Overwhelmed by the loss of her first-born child, Bischoff wipes the tears from her eyes and recalls a conversation she’d had with her 3-yearold son, Jerimy, who wanted to know why someone had shot his big brother. “He said, ‘Mommy, don’t that person know that Wayne had people who love him’”
She continues: “They are killing you now if you argue, for clothes, for money, for dissing them in a crowd… Do they know about Jesus? About another human being?”
No arrest has been made in this case.
Gunfire erupted around 8 p.m. on Friday, May 31, near the social hall at Quinnipiac Terrace, a public housing complex in New Haven that overlooks the Quinnipiac River. Two gangs, the Island Brothers and another, unidentified group, had entered into what would be a two-hour shoot-out. Although police tried to contain the gunfire, they were unable to prevent the death of 24-year-old Andre Moore. Last Nov. 29, they arrested two men, Kevin Guest, 21, and Sherman Edwards, 27, and charged them with Moore’s murder.
A 1985 graduate of Hillhouse High School, Moore was born and raised in New Haven. Although he was not working at the time of his death, he had been a dishwasher and short-order cook at the Chan House in New Haven. Sharon Pue, a close friend, describes him as boisterous, good-humored, and fun to be around. “He was a nice person.” says Pue. “He just got mixed up in the wrong crowd.”
Moore was known to New Haven police as a cocaine dealer with several drug-related arrests, says Lt. Melvin Wearing of the New Haven Police Department. But Moore’s mother, Hattie Moore Hammett, wasn’t aware that her son had drug connections, and has no idea why he was across town at the public housing complex that night. Hammett does not believe Andre was a gang member, nor does she think he owned a gun. Then again, she says, it doesn’t really matter.
“I don’t care what he did. He did not deserve to be killed in cold blood. I don’t care what anybody says about him, he belonged to me… No matter what your sons or daughters do, it’s not right to take a life. You cannot give back a life.”
Hammett should know. She brought two children into the world and lost both of them to guns within six months. Andre’s older brother, Jimmie Lee, was shot and killed in front of a New Haven bar the previous November. “I have lost the only two sons I had,” says Hammett. “You can’t hurt me no more than I’m hurt now.”
James Walter Egan
James Walter Egan, 22, of Milford, met Maria Fatima Almeida, 27, when he was visiting a relative at the Trumbull nursing home where Almeida worked as a nurse’s aide. Although Almeida was married, the two became involved in an affair. Last April. Almeida left her husband, Antonio, to move in with Egan. She did not tell anyone where she had gone; in fact, with Egan’s help she wrote a fake kidnapping note to explain her absence. Police soon tracked her down at Egan’s home in Milford, and she returned to her husband not long after.
Egan would not accept Almeida’s decision to go home. He began making threatening phone calls to the Almeidas, according to John Smriga, assistant state’s attorney in Fairfield. On the afternoon of May 9, the Almeidas called Trumbull police to report that Egan had come by the house shouting threats and promising to kill them both. “They complained that they were afraid for their lives,” Smriga says.
At about 1:30 a.m. on May 10, Egan drove to the Almeidas’ home and parked down the street. Carrying a loaded hunting rifle, which he had borrowed from a friend, he cut the phone wires and broke into the house.
Confronted with Egan and his loaded rifle and without a working telephone, Maria Almeida managed to escape to a neighbor’s, where she begged them to telephone the police, Smriga says. Then she went back to her house, where Egan grabbed her and threatened to shoot her. Almeida’s husband, Antonio, took his own loaded hunting rifle, pressed it into Egan’s chest, and shot him once. Egan died at 2 a.m.
Police charged Antonio Almeida with manslaughter, but the case was dismissed since, as Smriga says, “No facts were inconsistent with the killing having occurred in self-defense.”
As an abused spouse, Laura Jurado did everything she legally could to protect herself. In the end, it wasn’t enough.
Laura, 20, worked at Brooks Pharmacy in East Hartford and lived in New Britain with her husband. Jose, 22, a warehouse foreman at Ensign Bickford Co. in Simsbury, and their 11-month-old son, Daniel. They were planning to move into an apartment complex in East Hartford, where Laura’s sister, Darlene Negron, lives.
Laura filed a complaint with New Britain police against her husband on April 30. She alleged that during an argument over money, he grabbed her by the hair and threw her to the bathroom floor, says Detective William Kilduff. “He told her he was going to kill her with a knife and picked up a large kitchen knife,” Kilduff says.
Although Laura refused medical treatment and did not want to go to a shelter, she pressed her case. The next day, May 1, she returned to the police department to ask that her husband be arrested. She also requested that a police officer accompany her to the apartment and stand guard while she removed her possessions. Then she and her son moved in with her mother, America Otero, of East Hartford.
New Britain police records indicate that detectives charged Jose Jurado with third-degree assault and that they applied for an arrest warrant the same day that Laura filed her complaint. The following Monday, May 6, a judge issued a warrant for Jose’s arrest.
What happened between the 6th and the 10th is unclear. Either the warrant was slow in getting from the judge’s chambers back to the police department (both are housed in the same building), or police were slow to act on the warrant. In any case, detectives did not attempt to arrest Jose until 8:30 a.m. on Friday, May 10.
Michael Long, vice president at Ensign Bickford, says Jose did not work on either May 9 or 10, having asked his supervisor for time off. On the morning of the 10th, when New Britain police tried to arrest him, Jose was not at home. Detectives left a contact card, notifying him that he needed to turn himself in or they would come looking for him. New Britain police do not know if Jose saw the card or if he was aware that Laura was trying to have him arrested.
At noon on the 10th, Jose drove to the Burnside Avenue apartment complex in East Hartford into which he and Laura had been planning to move – and where Laura’s sister was living. He went to the rental office and asked that he be given the deposit money he and Laura had put down for an apartment. He was told, according to police, that he would need his wife’s signature to get the money.
Jose found Laura at her sister’s apartment. “They both went down to the office,” says Lt. Dennis McQueeney of the East Hartford police department. “The person who handled that transaction was not there, so they went out front, and an argument ensued.” Jose reached into his car and pulled out a 12-gauge shotgun, which, police say, he’d purchased earlier in the spring. He shot Laura twice, once in the chest and once in the head. He then aimed at the right side of his face and shot himself. The two died on the pavement in front of the apartment complex.
Laura’s family refused to comment on her death. Her sister, Darlene Negron, would say only that Laura was “very happy and very pretty.”
George Mulvey, 20, was walking with his brother, Chris, 21, down Church Street South in downtown New Haven at about 5:30 p.m. on Friday, May 10. They were drinking from a quart bottle of Red Bull malt liquor, and George was listening to a tape on his Walkman. The brothers had been more or less on their own since their mid-teens, when their parents divorced, and had bounced from place to place in the New Haven area for the last six years. Neither was employed.
As they crossed a narrow bridge, the brothers, who are white, passed three black men. “Either intentionally or unintentionally,” says James Clark, assistant state’s attorney in New Haven, “the beer bottle was knocked out of [George’s] hand” and fell onto the pavement. “Words were exchanged,” says Clark.
The three men kept walking and were about 50 feet away when George set his Walkman on the ground and started after them, says Clark. Two of the three men later testified that they believed George had a knife, but investigators never found a weapon.
One of the men, Paul Smith, 20, pulled out a handgun and told George not to come any closer, Clark says. Smith fired the gun once. Medical evidence indicates that the bullet hit the pavement, ricocheted, and then struck George in the chest. Twenty minutes later, be was pronounced dead at Yale-New Haven Hospital.
“One shot – that’s not a strong indicator of an attempt to kill,” says Clark. “But there’s no doubt that [Smith] pulled out a gun that he had no right to have. He was far enough away that self-defense was not an issue. He could have turned and run away, but he fled in the direction of somebody. That’s a reckless manslaughter, and that’s what he was charged with.”
Smith pleaded guilty to first-degree manslaughter and was sentenced to 18 years in prison to be suspended after 13 years on good behavior, Clark says. Chris Mulvey left the state to join family members in Nevada.
Emerico Pagan Cruz
Emerico Pagan Cruz, 72, lived in Waterbury’s North End at the Enterprise Place apartments, a federally subsidized housing project for the elderly. He was born in Utuado, Puerto Rico, and had lived in Waterbury for 12 years.
On Tuesday, May 14, he was standing outside his home at about 8 p.m, when Pedro Custodio, 58, came out of the apartments and engaged him in a loud argument. John Connelly, state’s attorney in Waterbury, says that the two were arguing over a woman. Custodio pulled a small-caliber handgun from his pocket and shot Cruz twice in the neck. He died at 9: 14 p.m.
Waterbury police arrested Custodio and charged him with Cruz’s murder. At a hearing last fall, Custodio was deemed incompetent to stand trial as a result of severe alcoholism and was committed to a state mental hospital. His condition will be reassessed this spring. If it has improved, he will stand trial; if not, he will be committed to the custody of the commissioner of mental health. Custodio’s previous arrest record included a fine in 1963 for carrying a dangerous weapon and a year’s probation in 1969 for breach of peace.
Curtis J. Washington
At first, New Haven police thought that Curtis J. Washington, 17, had been killed in some kind of drug-related shooting. A woman taking her daughter to school at about 9 a.m. on Wednesday, May 15, came across Washington’s body in her driveway as she went to open her car door. She found him sprawled, face-down, in a pool of blood, with a bullet hole in his head and several bags of what appeared to be cocaine on his back.
Investigating police learned that Washington, a high school dropout, had been riding around in a car with three friends late the night before. They say that two of the young men got out of the car at the corner of Lamberton and Button streets in New Haven’s Hill section, where they attempted to rob pedestrians of cash and began firing their handguns.
“They were shooting at their intended victims, and one of the bullets struck Washington,” says James Dinnan, assistant state’s attorney in New Haven. “They panicked and took the body to Sherman Avenue, where they dumped [it]. They tried to make it look like an execution-style slaying, like someone else had committed the murder.”
Police arrested Claymont Arrington, 16, and charged him with first-degree manslaughter with a firearm. The case is pending trial. The murder weapon was not found.
The weekend before Raymond Blecher, 33, was gunned down in front of Bridgeport’s P.T. Barnum housing complex, he phoned his aunt, Bettina Rivkin, in Palm Springs. Calif. “He wanted to come out to Palm Springs,” Rivkin says. “The next thing I knew, he was murdered.”
Blecher had been addicted to heroin for years but had recently enrolled in a methodone program. “He was finally getting off the darn stuff,” says family friend Louis McBurney, 72, of Waterbury. Rivkin also believes her nephew was trying to turn his life around. “When I talked to him, he said. ‘I swear I’m not on drugs anymore.’”
Blecher’s longtime neighbor, Arlene Akerson, says that Blecher had AIDS. He’d held a job at a nearby McDonald’s but had to quit because of the illness. He’d been trying to get computer training. Akerson says that Blecher was late on his rent and was owed money by a friend who was living at the P.T. Barnum housing complex in Bridgeport’s West End. At about 11:50 p.m. on May 15, he went to collect his money after the friend returned from work.
Bridgeport police think that Blecher accidentally got caught in a spray of bullets meant as a warning from one drug gang to another. He was hit once in the back, ran behind a building, collapsed and died. Police have yet to make an arrest.
“He was an absolutely lovable kid,” says Akerson. “He couldn’t have weighed more than 125 pounds. He was a little short guy, and he always wore a bandanna around his head. That was his trademark.”
Hughsville “Bunny” Barton, 17, came to the United States in 1989 from Kingston, Jamaica. He arrived on a visitor’s visa and was to attend school and stay with an aunt in Philadelphia. Eighteen months later, he came to New Haven, where he moved in with an uncle, Charles Hewitt. “He liked to play games.” Hewitt says. “He liked football, cricket. He was a good batsman and could also bowl.”
Family members do not know what Barton was doing the night of Monday, May 13, that put him at the corner of Whalley and Winthrop avenues in New Haven. Perhaps, says Hewitt, he was visiting a friend who lived on Winthrop.
New Haven police say that at about 10 p.m., Tasheem Douglas, 16, of Brooklyn, N.Y., approached Barton. The two got into an argument, and police allege that Douglas pulled out a gun and shot Barton to death. Lt. Melvin Wearing of the New Haven Police Department says that detectives knew Barton to be a marijuana dealer. Douglas was also dealing and wanted to move in on Barton’s corner, Wearing says. Police arrested Douglas, who awaits trial.
No drugs were found on Barton’s body, and Gary Nicholson, assistant state’s attorney in New Haven, says that he has “no idea of the validity” of Wearing’s description of Barton as a drug dealer.
Hewitt describes his nephew as quiet and friendly, not mixed up in any trouble. “He didn’t have a gun. He wasn’t that kind of person. If he was, I don’t know about it.”
Hewitt, who is also from Jamaica, returned to Kingston to break the news to Barton’s mother. “I went to visit her. She was very sorry. She started crying. It was just unbelievable.”
Danny Edward Diaz
Danny Diaz, 36, and his girlfriend, Evelyn Roque, walked to the store from their third-floor apartment on Benton Street in Hartford’s South End on Friday, May 17. When they returned at about 6:20 p.m., Roque’s daughter, Jennifer, informed the two that Roque’s ex-boyfriend, Luis Cuevas, 40, was inside. According to testimony that Roque and her daughter gave Hartford police, Diaz was upset that Cuevas had come to the apartment. He went into the living room to watch television while Roque and Cuevas talked. Moments later, Cuevas walked into the living room and confronted Diaz. “He says, ‘This one’s for you,’” says Steve Oborski, investigator for the Hartford state’s attorney office. Roque and her daughter claimed that Cuevas pulled out a gun and began shooting at Diaz, who was still sitting on the couch. Although Diaz tried to dodge the bullets, he was struck. He crawled out of the apartment onto the second-floor landing and collapsed. He was pronounced dead at Hanford Hospital at 7 p.m.
Cuevas fled the scene and was later located in Quebradillas, Puerto Rico. He was arrested in July and extradited to Connecticut in late October. Police have charged him with Diaz’s murder.
George Timothy Reid
Last spring, Stamford police were loudly complaining about a pair of nightclubs that shared more than a common parking lot. Montego Bay Restaurant and the West Indian American Social Club were attracting a violent clientele from as far away as New Haven and New York City. “In any given week there, we had, if not killings, then shootings,” says Stamford Police Sgt. Paul Guzda.
George Timothy Reid, 34, was well aware of the clubs’ notoriety. Born in Westmoreland, Jamaica. Reid had socialized with other Jamaicans at the clubs until he got into an argument over a woman outside Montego Bay in 1989 and stabbed Andrew Wayne Stewart. Reid’s family says he avoided the clubs after this incident, because he knew they meant trouble.
Stewart recovered from his injury and did not press charges. But he harbored a grudge against Reid. When Reid did reappear at the West Indian American Social Club on Sunday, May 19, Guzda says someone apparently tipped Stewart off. Stamford police claim that Stewart, also born in Jamaica, drove up to the club in a Ford Escort at 8 p.m. and shot Reid five times at point-blank range. Reid, who had been sitting on a fence railing outside the club, died instantly. He was not armed. Stewart is currently awaiting trial on a charge of murder.
Chadds Ford, PA
Andrew Gartner, a 20-year-old University of Bridgeport junior from Chadds Ford, Pa., threw a party Saturday night, May 18, at his off-campus apartment, several days before he was to begin a summer internship at Prudential-Bache Securities in Wilmington, Del. A youngster from an affluent family, Gartner was interested in pursuing a career in finance, but he also liked to show friends a good time. On this occasion, he had invited a group of friends over to lift a few glasses and watch a pay-per-view boxing match featuring Hector “Macho” Camacho. Long after the match was over, another fight erupted.
By about 6:15 a.m. the next morning, there were still a few stragglers. One of them, Steve Williams, apparently would not go home, although he had been asked to leave. A friend of Gartner’s, Eric Tomlinson, knew that Gartner kept a cache of guns near the bar. He grabbed a .22-caliber officer-model special handgun in order to convince Williams to leave, walked into the hallway and accidentally fired the weapon, sending a bullet through Gartner’s skull. Gartner died at Bridgeport’s Park City Hospital the next day. Police investigators concluded that Tomlinson did not intend to harm Gartner. Last Nov. 22, he pleaded guilty to a charge of criminally negligent homicide. At the request of Gartner’s family, he received a suspended sentence – and two years of probation.
Gartner first handled guns in his late teens, says his cousin, Steve Gartner, also of Chadds Ford. The two, who were two months apart in age, enjoyed shooting targets together back home. While Steve lost interest in guns, Andrew continued to collect weapons. When police searched his apartment, they found a 9mm Luger, a 10mm Javelina pistol with three stainless steel magazines, a .22-caliber Bulldog revolver, and a crossbow pistol with metal-shafted arrows.
“I miss Andrew a lot,” says Steve. “I just wish there hadn’t been any guns there. I own a little .22 myself. I don’t use it any more. I don’t even take it out of its box.”
On Sunday, May 19, Eduardo Ortega confronted his ex-girlfriend, Luz Rodriguez, and her companion, Pedro Arroyo, at East Rock Park in New Haven. Ortega, 21, and Rodriguez had lived together until mid-April, when Rodriguez kicked Ortega out of the house. According to local news reports, Rodriguez and Arroyo were not romantically involved, but Ortega assumed they were. He hit his ex-girlfriend and then flashed a handgun at her and Arroyo, threatening to kill them and drink their blood. Rodriguez reported the incident to New Haven police.
Two days later, Arroyo took Rodriguez shopping at an Ames department store and dropped her off at her home in the Hill section of New Haven at about 8:45 p.m. Moments after Rodriquez went inside, Ortega, who’d been lying in wait, jumped out and shot Arroyo with a shotgun. Still sitting in his car, Arroyo died instantly. He was 21 years old. Ortega also shot and wounded a bystander but was soon disarmed by an off-duty Bridgeport police officer who lived nearby.
A friend of Arroyo says he was born in Puerto Rico, was married and had a small child, and worked in a factory in New Haven. Police arrested Ortega and charged him in the killing. His case is still pending trial. Al Vitale, assistant state’s attorney in New Haven, would not comment on the case except to say that Arroyo is survived by his mother, who lives in New Haven.
As state medical examiner H. Wayne Carver says, the more guns there are, the more fatal shootings there will be. In 1989 (a typical recent year), Americans manufactured 4.6 million new firearms, most of which were purchased in this country. The National Rifle Association estimates that there are currently 200 million guns in the United States, arming one in two households. Surely, Connecticut moves in the right direction by imposing age restrictions, waiting periods and record checks on handgun sales. In the meantime, however, an illegal gun trade flourishes nationwide, enabling minors and others to buy their weapons of choice illicitly. The sheer volume of guns in our homes and on our streets grows unchecked.