August 5 - 12, 1998

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Shooting of 12-Year-Old Stirs Concerns

by Andy Hart

On Monday, youngsters at the Asylum Hill Organizing Project (AHOP) Summer Day Camp took on an activity far removed from the usual fun and games. The campers broke into groups and created posters expressing their feelings about the shooting of 12-year-old Tiesha Doward on Huntington Street around 3 am. Monday morning, August 3, said Luwannia Johnson, AHOP Youth Program Director.

On Tuesday afternoon, Doward was listed in fair condition at Connecticut Children's Medical Center, a hospital spokesperson said. Police are still seeking two suspects in the shooting, said Hartford Deputy Police Chief Gerald Pleasent on Tuesday.

Johnson said the campers themselves suggested they make the posters, which they then brought to a meeting between Hartford Police officials and neighborhood residents Monday afternoon at Asylum Hill Congregational Church. One sign read "It could have been us," another said, "This is our neighborhood-Stop the killing," and another read, "You need us for the future."

"The children reacted in various ways [to the shooting]. Some felt scared, some felt sorry for the little girl and some were mad that this could happen in their neighborhood," said Johnson.

Police say Doward was sitting outside her apartment building at 57 Huntington Street when a dark green sport utility vehicle pulled up across the street. The occupants of the van subsequently became involved in an argument with a group of people standing outside 42 Huntington Street. Hartford Police Lieutenant Mark Pawlina said the argument might have been the result of an attempted robbery or a "drug deal gone bad." Shots then rang out but Pawlina said it is unclear if the occupants of the van did all the shooting or if some fire was returned by the group standing on the sidewalk. The suspects in the van then fled north on Huntington Street.

Doward was wounded in the arm and upper left chest area. She was given first aid by residents in the area prior to the arrival of emergency medical personnel, who then transported Doward to Saint Francis Hospital and Medical Center. She was transferred to the Connecticut Children's Medical Center later in the day.

Doward is a resident of Batavia, New York. She is staying in Hartford with her biological mother, Carolyn Armstrong.

Police are asking anyone with information about the incident or the suspects to call the Major Crimes Division at 527-7300, ext. 5230. One suspect is described as a black male in his early 20's, bald and with a heavy build. The second suspect is described as a black male, late teens to early 20's with a thin build.

Deputy Chief Gerald Pleasent said he called Monday's meeting to tell residents exactly what transpired and "dispel any rumors or gossip contrary to reality" about the shooting. He called the shooting an isolated incident and said crime overall has decreased sharply in Asylum Hill. According to police records, crimes against persons have dropped from 321 in 1993 to 157 in 1997 and crimes against property have dropped from 1677 in 1993 to 1058 last year.

Pawlina did say "It's no secret that Huntington [Street] has seen a lot of drug activity lately. We've been on top of that and made numerous arrests...We've given that street a lot of attention and we're prepared to give it a lot more." Police have made 183 narcotics arrests, 287 loitering arrests and issued 513 motor vehicle tickets in the area so far this year, Pawlina said.

Williams, however, said that crime is still a major problem in Asylum Hill, particularly in areas like Huntington Street. She feels patrols should be beefed up even more in these areas and said police should be "on the beat where there's heat."

Pleasant said extra patrols were run on Huntington Street Monday night and several arrests were made. But he said there is not enough money to make the extra patrols permanent.

The Hartford Police are currently working on several new developments which should cut down on crime in Asylum Hill and other neighborhoods, Pleasent said. The Hartford Community Court, which is scheduled to open in a few months, should reduce the number of "quality of life" crimes, such as littering and loitering. The State's new Nuisance Abatement law will make it easier to prosecute landlords who consistently rent to problem tenants. And the Police, the Bail Commission, the State's Attorney Office and city residents are currently looking into developing a "career criminal" program aimed at persons who have numerous arrests.

Just making more arrests and giving longer sentences is not the whole answer, however, said Pawlina. He pointed out currently the Connecticut prison system holds only about 18,000 people while over 20,000 arrests were made last year in Hartford alone.

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