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“We are not animals. We are not savages.” – Vigil held amid wave of shootings in Hartford

HARTFORD – A small group held a vigil outside Hartford’s Vibz nightclub Thursday evening, four days after a man was shot and killed there.

Jakari Lewis, 28, died at the hospital Sunday morning. He was one of three people hit by bullets as the crowd was leaving the North End Main Street nightclub and emptying out into the parking lot. A man and a woman, both 28 years old, were also struck. The man is still recovering in the hospital according to his aunt, who attended Thursday night’s vigil.

“Whoever did this, come forward, because staying away is only making it harder,” said Donnie Williams, the aunt of the man who was shot and survived. Williams also lost her son to violence in 2003. “They do their dirt and then they hide,” Williams said of shooters, “but when you get caught, you play the victim yourself. It doesn’t work. A lot of kids are doing this. Too many families are losing loved ones to violence on the streets. I lost my son, it’s been 16 years.”

The vigil wasn’t the largest Reverend Henry Brown has held, but it came amid a wave of violence across the city this week. Lewis’ death was Hartford’s second homicide of 2019. By Thursday’s vigil, Hartford Police were also investigating the third and fourth homicide and several shootings.

“Frankly we’re tired of it,” Rev. Brown said. “We keep hearing ‘we’re gonna do something,’ but nothing never been done; so I’m tired of hearing the mayor, city council, all these people make promises when it’s election time and nothing never changes.”

Mothers United Against Violence holds vigils after nearly every homicide in the city, often in the summer months. They are typically aimed at raising awareness about the problem of violence in Hartford. They also give support to the families of victims.

Judy Cook lives in Windsor, which borders Hartford’s North End. This was the first MUAV vigil she has ever attended. “It feels endless,” Cook said, “I don’t know what to say, thoughts and prayers aren’t working, but the victims need it and the victims’ families need it.”

“We do these vigils to help families find justice, to find some form of closure,” Rev. Brown said, “the worst thing in the world is to lose your child and then not know who killed that child.”

Police have not made any arrests in the shooting death of Jakari Lewis. Sources close to the investigation said Sunday’s shooting was believed to be tied to gang activity. During the vigil, Rev. Brown pleaded for the witnesses to come forward. “If I know somebody done murdered somebody, you can bet I’m gonna tell what I know,” he preached through a red microphone.

Rev. Brown also wanted to send a message to those outside of Hartford: that the violence in his city is unacceptable. “We don’t condone that type of behavior and we are trying to change that perspective of what people see when they look inside of Hartford and see people that live there,” he said.

“We are not animals. We are not savages. We are decent human beings like everybody else and we are trying to live,” Rev. Brown said, “and the whole key is that. Does anybody care about the lives that are lost in Hartford?”

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