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Court cases detail violent clashes between Norwich, New London groups

An ongoing dispute between groups of young people from New London and Norwich led to a New Year's Day stabbing at Foxwoods Resort Casino and a Halloween shooting in Norwich, according to court documents.

Other shootings under investigation in Norwich could be related, according to law enforcement officials.

The motive for the dispute between groups of people in their late teens and early 20s, some of whom have been identified as members of street gangs, is unknown.

But in light of the potential for escalating violence, law enforcement officials said this week that they are taking steps to ensure the animosity doesn't play out during what is billed as the oldest high school rivalry in the country: the annual Norwich Free Academy-New London High School Thanksgiving football game.

NFA officials announced Wednesday that the game, which was initially moved from Thanksgiving Thursday to Wednesday night, now will be played at 1 p.m. Wednesday at the recommendation of Norwich and New London police, who cited an unspecified "recent conflict" between people from the two cities. Police have discussed using metal detectors and having police officers ride the team bus to and from the game.

Joseph Desir, 18, of Norwich appeared Thursday in New London Superior Court in connection with an early morning shooting on Nov. 1 during a Halloween party in the attic of a home at 505 E. Main St. in Norwich. According to an arrest warrant affidavit, detectives determined the incident involved members of the street gang "1804," a number that appears to reference the year Haiti won independence from France.

Police allege that Desir, who was out on bond on charges connected with another violent incident, jumped a New London man and, with others, punched and kicked him while he was on the ground. Then, a witness told police, Desir pulled out a gun and shot into a room full of people, grazing the left side of an unidentified male's head. The projectile entered through the back of the man's hood and exited out the front before lodging itself in a wall, according to an arrest warrant affidavit.

Desir is being held in lieu of $100,000 on charges of first-degree assault, illegal discharge of a firearm, first-degree reckless endangerment and risk of injury to a child. He has pleaded not guilty, and on Thursday his attorney, Matthew J. Costello, argued for a bond reduction as about a dozen members of Desir's family sat in the gallery. Costello said Desir had done so well while being monitored electronically that the court had removed his monitoring bracelet.

Prosecutor Stephen M. Carney argued against a bond reduction, noting Desir was out on bond for the earlier offense when he allegedly shot somebody. Details of the earlier charge are unavailable because Desir was a juvenile at the time.

"He's a danger to the community," Carney argued. "I think he's in danger, himself. There seem to be warring factions."

Judge Hillary B. Strackbein denied the bond reduction motion, but court officials said later in the day that Desir's family is expected to post his bond on Friday.

Several juveniles and young adults from New London and Norwich have pending court cases in the New Year's Day fight at Foxwoods. Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Police said the large fight began in the Fox Tower Garage shortly after 1 a.m. and spilled into the casino near the Centrale Bar.

Three people were stabbed, including one who initially was in critical condition at Hartford Hospital from two stab wounds to the abdomen. Kevin Shan, then 19, of New London was charged with that stabbing after Mashantucket Tribal Police, with assistance from New London police, identified him from surveillance video that they said showed him approaching the victim with a pocket knife and thrusting it into his abdomen.

Shan, charged with first-degree assault, remains incarcerated.

k.florin@theday.com

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