`These Kids Don't Get It'
By MONICA POLANCO And HILDA MUÃ‘OZ
May 30, 2006 They're nice and they stick together
A recent flare-up of retaliatory gunfire between 'loosely knit' neighborhood gangs claimed the life of a 15-year-old bystander and wounded a 14-year-old boy on Clark Street Sunday night, Mayor Eddie A. Perez said Monday. 'This weekend they have crossed the line and we have to go after them,' Perez said.
Police said the boys were on the front porch of the 15-year-old boy's home at Clark and Elmer streets when they were shot about 11:30 p.m. Police had not released the boys' names Monday, but the medical examiner's office identified the 15-year-old as Kerry Foster. Neighbors and Hartford Fire Chief Charles A. Teale Sr. said the boy's father, Kerry Foster, is a firefighter for the Hartford Fire Department. The 14-year-old boy was taken to a local hospital, where he was listed in critical but stable condition. It was the latest round of violence in Hartford this past weekend, bringing to 16 the number of people who have been shot since Wednesday.
About 1:55 a.m. on Sunday, police found 17-year-old Anthony Quinitchett of Bloomfield in the 3200 block of Main Street with a gunshot wound to his arm. Minutes later, two Hartford residents who had been shot in the leg arrived at St. Francis Hospital and Medical Center in a private car. Police are investigating another shooting Sunday in which a man was shot in the face.
Perez attributed the recent increase in violence to retaliatory shootings between three loosely knit gangs in the Upper Albany, Northeast and Clay-Arsenal areas. He said unlike previous shootings, some of the victims this weekend were innocent bystanders. He said Foster was not affiliated with any of the three gangs. The police department recently increased its presence in response to the spike in violence, but after this weekend, Perez said, the city will have to do more.
Every year, the city talks with the governor's office and with the head of the state police about bringing in state troopers during July and August, but this weekend's violence has expedited those conversations, Perez said. The mayor said he will announce the city's strategy for dealing with the violence this week. Eight people believed to be members of the neighborhood gangs and involved in some of the recent shootings were arrested Sunday night, Perez said. He said those arrested are not tied to the drive-by shooting on Clark Street.
'We are going to target these individuals and make their lives miserable like they've been doing to their neighborhoods,' Perez said. 'These kids don't get it; they're not only making bad choices, they're immune to taking a life.'
Perez said he and Hartford Police Chief Patrick Harnett are considering asking state police for help, enforcing a curfew for juveniles and targeting gang members more aggressively. He also said residents need to cooperate more with police. Brian Kavanagh, who lives on Clark Street, said he heard the shots late Sunday, followed by piercing screams and later, a pall of silence. 'It sounded like it was inside my bedroom,' said Kavanagh, a volunteer and founding member of the nearby St. Martin de Porres House. 'It's pretty sad when you can't go through a night without something like this.' The elder Foster, Kavanagh said, used to volunteer as Santa Claus for the de Porres house, which provides outreach in the community.
'I take this kind of personal,' Kavanagh said. 'How could you be mad at a 14- and 15-year-old?' A sticker on Kavanagh's mailbox carried a biblical message: 'Thou Shalt Not Kill.' Two neighborhood youths who were in Voluntown for a workshop said they knew Foster's son. On Saturday, the teens had prepared a skit about gun violence. 'It's crazy because we were just talking about somebody getting shot in Hartford,' said Jennifer Sutton, 18, a Clark Street resident. Sutton, who said she hopes to one day move out of Hartford, has known two other people killed by gunfire. 'They're dying over nothing,' she said.
Sharon Patterson-Stallings, a Hartford school board member and Clark Street resident, said she also heard the gunshots Sunday.
Patterson-Stallings came downstairs and saw a young man lying on the front sidewalk. Patterson-Stallings said she has known the Fosters for years. The family declined to comment. 'They're nice and they stick together,' she said. 'They mind their business.' Throughout the day, several people, including firefighters from the nearby Ladder 13 station house, visited the Foster home. 'It's nice to come and pay your respects and your condolences, but then give me hope,' Patterson-Stallings said.
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