hartford shooting

FBI Explains Function of ‘Safe Streets Task Force' After Deadly Hartford Shooting

Safe Street Task Forces are made up of FBI agents, but also specially trained state and local police officers.

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BACKGROUND

Dozens of police cruisers descended on Enfield Street in Hartford Wednesday morning.

In a report released Friday, the New Haven State's Attorney said 34-year-old Benecio Vasquez was killed while members of the local “Violent Gang Safe Streets Task Force” was trying to arrest another man on Enfield Street.

While investigators are still trying to figure out what led to the shooting and who fired first, they say it appears Vasquez, an FBI special agent, and a task force member from the New Britain Police Department all fired a weapon.

The report said investigators believe Vasquez’s semi-automatic pistol was found at the scene.

The task force members did not have body cameras or dash cam video.

An investigation is underway to see if the shooting was justified.

COMMUNITY REACTION

Community advocate Rev. Henry Brown with "Mother’s United Against Violence” tells NBC Connecticut that they welcome the Safe Streets Task Force because they want to quell violence in the city.

But Rev. Brown said the community’s relationship with law enforcement is very fragile right now after two deadly incidents with officers in Hartford since the start of the year.

SAFE STREETS TASK FORCE

While the FBI said they said they could not comment on what happened Wednesday, they did want to share what their task forces do.

“It’s really to make communities safer,” said FBI Supervisory Special Agent Joe Altimari, describing the 160 “Violent Gang Safe Streets Task Forces” conducting investigations throughout our country.

Three are located right here in Connecticut, like the one in Hartford, where a task force investigation turned deadly earlier this week.

“It’s unfortunate when we have bad incidents and when we are potentially at risk. Nobody wants to have a problem. Nobody wants to be in a situation that puts them at risk,” he said.

Safe Street Task Forces are made up of FBI agents, but also specially trained state and local police officers.

“Our job is to integrate with those local departments and use their knowledge of what’s going on at the lowest level to figure out, ‘is there a bigger problem at hand?’ ‘Is there a bigger organization responsible?’ ‘Who is heading that?’” he said.

Working together as a team, they track violent crime across our state and have access to the FBI’s high-tech resources.

“24/7, seven days a week, holidays, weekends," he said.

Altimari said this around the clockwork is dangerous, as task members are working to get the most dangerous criminals off our streets.

“Seven or eight months ago, there was an individual who was ultimately charged with two homicides here in the state and ending up fleeing the state of Connecticut,” Altimari described as an example of some of the work they do.

The pandemic has brought on a lot of stress and what Altimari describes as a rash of violence, “it’s alarming,” he said.

“That’s probably one of the biggest problems we have right now is the amount of illegal guns that are out on the street," he said.

He and his task force partners hope the community will continue to support them, by reporting criminal activity to police, so they can continue to make our communities safer.

“We are out there investigating and we are doing everything we can to combat it, but we do ask, we need the public’s help though.”

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