Bridgeport cops on unrelated shootings: ‘these kids, they don’t care. It’s so disheartening.’
BRIDGEPORT — In one week, juveniles were arrested in connection with two unrelated shootings — one fatal, one not — that involved two minors from the same family.
The fatal shooting on Willow Street on Dec. 18 left 12-year-old Clinton Howell dead from a gunshot to the chest. He was shot outside his home. Police said he was not the intended target. Four people have been arrested in connection with Howell’s death.
Then, on Tuesday, three people suffered non-life-threatening injuries after a minor opened fire during an iPhone purchase that went bad, Police Chief Armando Perez said. A juvenile has been charged in connection with the triple shooting.
“A note of significance is that this juvenile perpetrator is the brother of a juvenile male who was recently arrested in connection with the death of Clinton Howell,” said Police Capt. Brian Fitzgerald.
On Wednesday, one of four people charged in connection with Howell’s killing faced a judge for his role in the fatal drive-by — 16-year-old Alexander Bolanos.
More than a dozen members of Howell’s family sat grim-faced in the back of the courtroom as Bolanos was led in by a half-dozen judicial marshals. The chains around his ankles jingled as he rocked side-to-side and stared up at Superior Court Judge Tracy Lee Dayton.
Although a minor under the law, the judge announced Bolanos was being treated as an adult because of the severity of the charges, which included conspiracy to commit murder, second-degree larceny and carrying a pistol without a permit.
Supervisory Assistant State’s Attorney Cornelius Kelly urged the judge to impose a high bond, pointing out that Bolanos had been wearing an electronic monitoring anklet on Dec. 18. He is accused of handing the gun that shot Howell to the alleged gunman, 18-year-old Tajay Chambers. Chambers is set to be arraigned Thursday.
Bridgeport police have also charged a 14-year-old and a 12-year-old in connection with Howell’s murder. Their cases are being processed in state juvenile court.
According to the warrant affidavit, the four were in a stolen sport utility vehicle hunting members of the “BGs” — the Blitz Gang — on Dec. 18. Police said they had never met the members of the supposed rival gang, only traded insults over Facebook and Snapchat.
Police said Howell’s older cousin, who is not being identified, told detectives he and Howell were walking home from the corner store when an SUV drove by three times.
The cousin pulled out a pellet gun and fired at the SUV, which turned around and headed back toward Howell and his cousin, police said. As it got close, a witness told police, someone in the SUV fired at Howell and his cousin.
Police said the cousin told them he had an ongoing dispute with Bolanos, who he had never met but had communicated with through social media.
According to the affidavit, Chambers, who police said confessed to killing Howell, told them that he got a Snapchat video on his phone that night from Howell’s cousin, a member of the rival BGs gang. In the video the cousin showed the Willow Street sign, which Chambers told police he took to be a dare or challenge.
After the cousin shot at them with the pellet gun, police said Chambers told others in the stolen SUV to hand him a 9mm pistol.
“I extended my hand out the rear passenger window and fired twice,” police said he told them.
One of the shots fired from that weapon hit and killed Howell. Chambers later told detectives he didn’t know Howell was 12 and he didn’t know Howell was not a member of any gang.
On Wednesday, the judge ordered Bolanos held in lieu of a $1 million bond.
“He (Bolanos) is treating this like a joke,” Howell’s father, Carlton Howell, said later in the lobby of the Golden Hill Street courthouse. “He was smirking; he looked around and was smiling and that’s not funny.”
Howell’s mother, Cynthia Dawkins, appeared on the verge of tears. “We just want the justice he deserves,” she said.
Prior to Bolanos’ arraignment Wednesday, police issued a statement about a shooting Tuesday night near a gas station and convenience store at 915 North Ave. that left three people hospitalized with non-life-threatening injuries.
A juvenile male was arrested on weapons charges and the Detective Bureau expects to file further charges in the near future as the investigation continues, Fitzgerald said.
Police did not disclose which of the other juveniles accused of Howell’s death the juvenile arrested for Tuesday’s shooting was related to.
Despite the familial relation, “the two shooting incidents do not appear to be related,” Fitzgerald said.
He said six gunshots were fired in Tuesday’s incident. It was unclear how many of those shots hit the victims. Although three people were struck with gunfire, the juvenile shooter was released from custody Tuesday night.
“The judge released the young man to the family,” Police Chief Armando Perez said. “We’re pretty upset about that ... This kid shot three people and he’s released to the parents?”
This falls in line with what Bridgeport police officials have said: that the system is “catch and release” when it comes to most juvenile offenders.
Back in November, Bridgeport Police Sgt. Jason Amato said that police have to prove several things to keep a juvenile in custody, among them that the minor could be a threat to the public or has access to weapons.
“Typically a situation like this (Tuesday’s shooting) would warrant that he’s held in custody,” Perez said.
He said the rise in serious crimes being committed by juveniles, especially in the weeks around Christmas 2018, is alarming.
“These are groups of kids that are violent and they’re causing havoc in the city,” Perez said. “We have a task force that is looking into it. But these kids, they don’t care. It’s so disheartening.”