New Haven city leaders and community members are looking for ways to stop the street violence after the murder of a 14-year-old boy and a shooting that injured a 13-year-old boy just days apart.
Police have arrested a 21-year-old man they say fired the stray bullet that struck the 13-year-old on a basketball court, but the police search continues for the person who shot and killed 14-year-old Tyrick Keyes.
Community members expressed their anger over the teen’s murder at a news conference Wednesday afternoon with Mayor Toni Harp, New Haven Police brass and other city leaders.
"We want our children to have a chance," Odell Cooper said. "My son was shot and killed a year ago, mistaken identity."
Cooper told NBC Connecticut New Haven is not doing enough to keep children out of harm’s way.
"It’s about having the boots on the ground, the community in the ground and your police on the ground shutting down the crack houses, shutting down the drug houses and working with the individuals they know have the guns," Cooper said.
"We cannot arrest our way out of this situation," New Haven Police Department Assistant Chief Archie Generoso said.
Generoso said it is a matter of police working with the school system and outreach workers "to try to quell beefs, to try to talk with these kids and get them to mitigate problems without turning the gun."
The news conference organized by Harp came a day after she attended Keyes’ funeral.
"The mother sang through her tears on behalf of her child, so it was gut wrenching," Harp said.
Harp said part of the solution is providing jobs, training and "sense of hope" for young adults ages 18 to 24 who may struggle with the transition from high school into the real world.
"There has been some success," said Kermit Carolina, a supervisor of youth development and engagement with New Haven Public Schools. "It is not perfect."
Statistically, police said the number of shootings and homicides have been on the decline in New Haven since 2011.
"We’ve made huge progress in our city," Harp said. "We've still got a long way to go."
Generoso said he is hopeful police will soon make an arrest in the murder of Keyes.
"We’re making great progress in that investigation, that’s all I can say right now," Generoso said.
Wednesday afternoon, friends remembered Keyes through song, dance and a white balloon release at a New Haven park.
"You can be a great person in the community and still something can happen to you," said Chaz Carmon who knew Keyes from the local youth group, Ice The Beef.
"He’s been with our program a year and a half," Carmon said. "He walked one day with some of the dancers said he wanted to dance he had a couple moves so we helped him get more advanced and he became a phenomenal dancer."
Keyes was looking forward to starting his freshman year at Hillhouse High School in the fall.
"I want them to realize that the rest of the whole community, this could have been anybody’s child in the community," Carmon said.