Shooting Alarms Residents Of Area
June 16, 2006
By TINA A. BROWN, Courant Staff Writer
Homeowners in Hartford's Frog Hollow neighborhood said Thursday they were alarmed that a fight that broke out on a basketball court ended with shots being fired into a crowd.
No one was injured in the incident, which resulted in five arrests. Witnesses who saw the brawl about 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at the corner of Grand and Lawrence streets said two men started fighting as a crowd gathered around.
Two police officers walking down the street heard the disturbance as five men jumped into a 1992 Nissan and fired into the crowd, police said. The gunfire sent residents scrambling, including several children, who said they ran toward their homes.
One couple, who bought a home in the neighborhood five years ago, said Thursday that the violence was bound to happen because drug dealers frequent the playground.
"The sad part is they kick the kids out," said the homeowner, who asked that his name not be used. "The worst thing that happened was when they built that playground. They are using that [park] for dealing drugs."
The man said he suspects gangs are growing in the area. He said he won't allow his three children to play outside his home because gang members bother them. The words "Baby Law" are visible on many buildings and signs, suggesting a street gang may be active in the area.
But Deputy Chief Jose L. Lopez Sr. said Thursday the initial investigation has not determined that the fight and subsequent shooting Wednesday night were gang related.
"Anyone who knows of activity in the area should contact the police," Lopez said.
After the shots were fired, a chase ensued. Luis A. Solis, 24, of Hartford, who police say was driving the car, sped west on Grand Street, north on Babcock Street and then east on Capitol Avenue.
Some officers chased on foot, while others in cars joined in. They caught up with the car in the area of 355 Capitol Ave., police said. When they searched the car, police found a sawed-off shotgun and a pistol.
Solis faced weapons, motor vehicle and drug charges. His passengers, Luis Vargas, 23; Julian Vargas-Rivera, 19; Luis Vargas-Velasquez, 23, all of Hartford; and Francisco Martinez, 24, of Springfield, were charged breach of peace and weapons charges, police said.
Martinez also was charged with unlawful discharge of a firearm, carrying a pistol without a permit, reckless endangerment and illegal possession of a firearm by a felon, police said.
Their court cases were continued until July 11.
While residents in the neighborhood said they were alarmed, they also weren't surprised. They said they are grateful that no one was injured.
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