Gun Violence In A Hartford Neighborhood

Jan 2, 2018

Last year, the number of homicides in Hartford was lower than in 2015. But murders in Connecticut’s capital city were up from 2016, including a spike in one Hartford neighborhood.

Frog Hollow, one of Hartford’s 16 neighborhoods, is just north of Trinity College and a little southwest of downtown. The vibrant heart of Frog Hollow is Park Street -- home to El Mercado and Sol De Borinquen bakery.

Last year, not one person was murdered in Frog Hollow. But just hours into 2017, Luz Rosado was shot and killed right on Park Street.

“Actually, she was here—getting her hair done that day,” said Sonia Ayala, who owns El Mejor Equipo, a hair salon.

Ayala’s shop is just two doors down from where Rosado was murdered.

“The next day, somebody called me and said that she was killed,” Ayala said. “As a matter of fact, the guy that shot her was here getting his hair done also.”

The man who allegedly murdered Rosado had been arrested and charged with four felonies,  including attempt to commit murder and criminal possession of a firearm,  just two days before he reportedly killed Rosado. And five months earlier, he was charged with two felonies including assault two with a firearm stemming from a June 2016 incident.

Still, Ayala said that from her vantage point, the police don’t do a bad job of protecting the neighborhood.

“The cops do their job,” Ayala said. “However, if the legal system doesn’t enforce the law—they go into jail and [then] they’re out, back here doing the same thing.”

Frog Hollow is not the only neighborhood where murders have taken place in Hartford. Since New Year’s Day of 2005, 349 people have been murdered in the capital -- 68 people have been murdered in a neighborhood called Northeast. That’s 18 percent of all the murders.

In that same time, 22 people have been killed in Frog Hollow, including 10 in the last four years. 2017 was the deadliest of all with four people killed in Frog Hollow.

Hair stylist Sonia Ayala believed it. There are white posters featuring different haircuts affixed with red tape onto her front window. They’re covering up bullet holes from an incident earlier in 2017 — a stray bullet ricocheted into the shop and hit the ceiling.

“It was riddled with bullets is what happened. I had my grandkids here,” she said. “There was a total of six people here. It just went on in broad daylight—9:30 in the morning.”

“We have so many guns, so much violence in the city of Hartford,” said Brian Foley, the deputy chief of the Hartford Police Department. “I can promise you one thing—the guns do not come from Hartford.”

Foley’s theory is that criminals shoot people with guns that come from out of town and that much of the gun violence is driven by the opioid epidemic.

“And with that, your larcenies and burglaries pick up,” Foley said. “They have picked up across the entire region. What are they looking for when they break into somebody’s house? Things worth value, things that they can trade for drugs very easily—that’s firearms.”

"It was riddled with bullets is what happened." Red tape holds up a poster at Sonia Ayala's salon. It's covering up a bullet hole.
Credit Ryan Caron King / WNPR

Foley used the example of a 10-year-old who was shot in her Hartford home. Foley said she survived, but was hit by a stray bullet.

“The gun did not come from Hartford,” Foley said. “It came from a burglary in Glastonbury.”

Four of the Hartford's 29 murders in 2017 happened in Frog Hollow, a neighborhood that includes Park Street.
Credit Ryan Caron King / WNPR

Mayor Luke Bronin supported the claim that much of the gun violence happens with firearms not native to Hartford.

“You have those who are struggling with addiction, who will find and steal an unsecured firearm, sell it for money or for drugs, and in many cases, that’s how these guns end up on our street,” Bronin said.

He said the city is tackling gun violence in a variety of ways, including a partnership with a program designed for gunshot detection solutions, along with community programs aimed at keeping kids away from a life of crime.

Bronin was tough on his predecessor Pedro Segarra for how he dealt with gun violence. And in Bronin’s first year as mayor, the number of homicides declined.

But now, the number has doubled from last year. Of the 29 people killed, 24 were killed by  a firearm. Among them, Luz Rosado.

Her two children—one is nine, the other is just over a year old—will live their lives without their mom.

Back in her Park Street salon, Ayala recounted the scene in her shop before Rosado was killed.

“The one year old that she left [behind] was crying,” Rosado said. “It was like he sensed that something was going to happen to his mother. And I’ll never forget the crying. He was just clinging to her.”

And Ayala said even though she’s noticed more crime than ever in Frog Hollow this year, she’s not moving her salon.