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    Sunday, May 19, 2024

    Victim in New London domestic shooting recovering

    Deanna Brightman, the victim of March 23, 2024 domestic shooting in New London, is recovering at the hospital.
    Deanna Brightman, the victim of a March 23, 2024 domestic shooting in New London, is recovering at the hospital. (Submitted photo)

    Deanna Brightman, the 30-year-old New London mother and teacher who was shot and nearly killed by her boyfriend in an attempted murder-suicide, is out of the intensive care unit at Yale New Haven Hospital and looking toward recovery, her sister said.

    Andrea Brightman, Deanna’s younger sister, who has been holding bedside vigil since the March 23 shooting, said her sister has undergone multiple surgeries and procedures and while uncomfortable, and frankly a bit miserable, is focused on her kids and her future.

    “She woke up and the first thing she asked about was her kids. Now, she just wants to move forward. That’s her main focus. Her and her kids literally have a fresh start and she wants to start the healing process ― emotional and physical,” Andrea Brightman said.

    The shooting happened on the morning of March 23 at the Hawthorne Drive apartment Deanna Brightman shared with her boyfriend, 31-year Jamal Brooks, and two children, ages 5 and 9. Police said Brooks shot Brightman multiple times before shooting and killing himself.

    The kids were home at the time of the shooting. Brightman was initially taken to Lawrence + Memorial Hospital and later flown to Yale New Haven Hospital for surgery, leaving anxious family members wondering whether she would survive.

    An average of 14 people are killed each year in Connecticut by their intimate partner, according to the Connecticut Coalition Against Domestic Violence. New London is not immune to the problem. Five women were killed here between 2022 and 2023. In 2022, there was a murder-suicide that left an 18-year-old dead in an apartment on Granite Street, killed by her boyfriend.

    Andrea Brightman said her sister is sweet, kind and has a measured temperament, making her a perfect fit to care for and teach young kids. She is the head preschool teacher at the Children’s Learning Center at Mitchell College.

    She is also “literally the one person who doesn’t deserve any of this,” her sister said.

    But Deanna Brightman is also a fighter.

    “She was making sure she would freaking survive so she could be there for her kids,” Andrea Brightman said.

    Brightman is the mother of a 5-year-old, and has been caring for Brooks’ 9-year-old, whose biological mother is deceased. The two children are now safe with family, the sister said, and dealing with trauma of their own.

    Deanna Brightman put herself through school at Southern Connecticut State University and always had her sights set on a career working with children, her sister said.

    Jill Fidrych, director of the Children’s Learning Center at Mitchell College, said Brightman has made strong connections with her young students and with her peers.

    “She is known for her kindness and bubbly personality, bringing positivity to both the learning environment and the workplace,” Fidrych said in a statement. “She sets a great example for others with her dedication to, and her love for, young children. Our hearts go out to her and her family as she begins her recovery.”

    Domestic violence awareness

    Andrea Brightman said her sister was the obvious victim of domestic violence and the fact that it culminated in such a violent way has family members second guessing whether they should have seen the signs and whether they could have done more to help.

    “A lot of people have been beating themselves up. I didn’t know it was this bad. I should have asked more questions. I think she was trying to do right by her kids,” she said. “But leaving a domestic violence situation, that’s traumatic in itself.”

    Knowing her sister, Andrea Brightman said, Deanna probably didn’t want to bother or burden anyone if she was having problems.

    Brightman also does not want to bad mouth Brooks, Andrea Brightman said, since her sister “knew he had mental health issues and was trying to help him too ... trying to fix the situation.”

    “Anyone who knows domestic violence, it’s not like you can walk out the door and you’re done,” Andrea Brightman said.

    Court records show that Deanna Brightman, in 2019 when her youngest child was 1, had applied for sole legal custody of the child she and Brooks had in common. In a handwritten application for an “emergency ex parte order of custody,” Deanna Brightman wrote she did not think her child was safe with Brooks.

    “He threatened to kill both myself and our child. He does not want to be responsible for caring for either his older child or our child together,” Deanna Brightman wrote. “I would like to prevent him from taking my child from me.”

    She also indicated in court documents filed in 2019 that there was a protective order in place at the time. There are no further public documents filed in the case and no indication why the case was dismissed on Jan. 22, 2021.

    Judicial records do not list a criminal record for Brooks but published reports show he was arrested by New London police on at least two occasions. In a 2019 arrest he was charged with second-degree harassment, violation of conditions of release and interfering with an officer. In 2022, published reports show Brooks was charged with breach of peace.

    Andrea Brightman said she’s never come across anyone who had a bad word to say about her sister, and the number of lives Brightman has touched shows in the amount of support she has received since the shooting. She has had visits and cards and baskets from well-wishers, including New London police officers who were at the hospital this week.

    “That’s definitely helped her get through all of this,” the sister said.

    Safe Futures, which provides support services for victims of domestic violence, has also been instrumental in helping to prepare her sister for her eventual release from the hospital, Andrea Brightman said. She wants to get set up in a new apartment and be in a place where she can focus on herself and children, Andrea Brightman said.

    “It means a lot to her that so many people reached out to show they care,” Andrea Brightman said. “People are rooting for her.”

    She doesn’t have a timeline for her sister’s release from the hospital, but said Deanna is “going crazy,” at the hospital and would rather be spending time with her students or doing something active with her own kids.

    To help fund Deanna Brightman’s recovery and future, Andrea Brightman has established a fundraiser at https://www.gofundme.com/f/help-deanna-start-fresh-stopdomesticviolence.

    Safe Futures is accepting donations for the victim and the children at 16 Jay St. in New London. Safe Futures operates a 24-hour hotline at (860) 701-6001, and help is also available by calling or texting CT SafeConnect at (888) 774-2900.

    g.smith@theday.com

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