By Jesse Leavenworth, Josh Kovner, Nick Rondinone, The Hartford Courant; and Crystal Hall, Fox CT
MANCHESTER — The man who shot three women and then killed himself in Manchester late Saturday night had fathered a child with one of the female victims and was involved in a child support dispute with her, according to family members and court records.
For the last two weeks, Brittany Mills, 28, a standout basketball player at Weaver High School, class of 2004, had been trying to end a relationship with John Louis Lynn, the father of their 13-month-old boy, members of Mills’ family said Sunday.
Earlier this year, a Superior Court judge had ordered Lynn to pay child support. Mills later sought a contempt finding and a wage garnishment against Lynn. The case remains open in court, records show.
After Mills ended the on-again, off-again, five-year relationship two weeks ago, Lynn “was over there all the time,” said Mills’ sister, Tashua Parker. “She was trying to stop him from coming.”
Parker said Lynn, 41, and Mills had a strained relationship.
“It wasn’t physical … we just didn’t think it would ever go this far,” Parker said.
Until late Saturday night.
Concerned that Mills wasn’t answering her phone Saturday, Mills’ two cousins, Kamesha Mills, 23, of Manchester, and Artara Benson, 46, of New Jersey, had gone to check on Mills at her apartment at 190 Pine St., family members said.
At 9:40 p.m., Manchester police received reports of multiple gunshots at 190 Pine St. in the Dye House apartments.
Police arrived within minutes and confronted a man in the parking lot of the apartment building. The man was armed with a handgun and carrying a 13-month-old child, Capt. Christopher Davis said in a statement.
After a confrontation with officers, “it appears (the suspect) put the child on the ground before shooting himself,” said Davis. “One officer also fired one shot at the suspect, but it does not appear that the suspect was struck by the officer’s bullet.”
The child, unharmed by the gunfire, was transported to a hospital for evaluation, Davis said.
“The officers’ quick response to the scene prevented the suspect from being able to flee with the child and likely saved the child’s life,” the captain said.
Meanwhile, Davis said, patrol officers searched the apartment and found three women dead from gunshot wounds.
The officers had to force entry, according to a law enforcement official familiar with the case who requested anonymity.
Inside, they encountered a horrific scene — three women in the living room, all lying on the floor, each with severe head trauma and apparently dead, the officer said.
The women were in separate areas of the living room. They were all clothed. The apartment appeared to be neat and clean, the officer said.
The medical examiner on Sunday determined that Lynn’s death was a suicide and that Brittany Mills, Kamesha Mills, and Benson were homicide victims. Brittany Mills had multiple gunshot wounds to the head; Kameisha Mills and Benson had single gunshot wounds to the head. Lynn died from a single gunshot wound to the head.
Patrol officers treated the call as an active shooter incident and took measures to assure no one else was in the apartment or outside in the complex. Detectives were then called in to process the crime scene.
Sharell Foster, a third-floor tenant, said she knew one of the women from school and that the woman had lived at Dye House Apartments for about a year.
Foster said her daughter heard shots and Foster had seen the body of the man lying between cars in the parking lot after the police arrived.
Harold Arna, who was visiting his girlfriend who lived next door to the woman, said he had just sat down to watch TV when he heard women screaming.
“I heard women yelling — I didn’t hear a guy yelling — then I heard a pop, pop, pop,” Arna said.
After hearing the shots, Arna said, he ran to his girlfriend — who was doing laundry — and told her to get down.
Arna said his girlfriend immediately called the police.
“While my girlfriend was on the phone with the police, we still heard a woman screaming and more shots, then nothing,” he said. He said he and his girlfriend didn’t know the woman.
One of the shots nearly entered through their kitchen and was lodged in the wall, he said.
Family members said Brittany Mills was working with special needs children.
“She smiled all the time,” Parker said. “She was beautiful, and she was told all the time she should model because she was tall and skinny.”
Brittany Mills’ Facebook page shows a beaming Mills, her cheek pressed up against the face of her baby boy.
Richard Allen, of Long Island, N.Y., who was with the family Sunday in their Hartford home, said he had hadplanned to propose to Benson on Christmas day. They had been seeing each other for two years, he said. Benson had a 21-year-old child.