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    Friday, June 21, 2024

    Officers injured responding to shooting, fights at Conn. beach where over 2,000 gathered

    Two police officers were injured after a large gathering at a beach in West Haven was followed by a shooting at a nearby gas station on Monday, leading to a total of 12 arrests.

    Officers responded to the report of multiple fights at a beach in West Haven where large crowds gathered around 3 p.m. for a party that was promoted on social media, Joseph Perno, chief of police of the West Haven Police Department, said at a news conference Tuesday.

    An officer who responded to the beach was assaulted and suffered minor injuries, Perno said, adding that about 2,000 people mostly comprised of teens and young adults had gathered there.

    “I was very, very upset that when people who were coming here to enjoy the beach left because of this,” Perno told  reporters Monday night. “It was very upsetting to see that. Parents, people were walking their dogs, and then they had to leave because of this nonsense.”

    West Haven police dispersed the large crowd from the beach area with the assistance of Connecticut State Police and officers from the Milford and Orange Police Departments. As this was happening, officers around 7 p.m. received a report of a nearby shooting in the area of Campbell Avenue and Noble Street, near the Best Gas convenience mart and gas station, and the report of an altercation involving a crowd about a block north.

    Perno said a passerby driving in the area was struck in the face with either bullet or glass fragments when his windshield was hit with gunfire. His injuries were not life-threatening.

    According to Perno, another car was also hit by gunfire in the trunk area. That vehicle was occupied by a mother and her children. No one in that vehicle was injured.

    Perno said an officer was injured while trying to apprehend the suspects believed to be tied to the shooting who were in a vehicle. The officer suffered minor injuries.

    Police were able to make a felony car stop involving a vehicle with seven individuals and a gun inside. According to Perno, the individuals were charged and the gun was seized. The suspects have not been identified.

    Those arrests were in addition to the five arrests made between the fights at the beach and the altercation that happened around the time of the shooting, Perno said. These individuals were arrested on charges of breach of peace and disorderly conduct.

    Perno was joined Tuesday by West Haven Mayor Dorinda Keenan Borer, who each said this kind of activity will not be tolerated in their city.

    “No unlawful or disruptive behavior will be allowed on our shore,” said Perno, adding that the city invites anyone who wants to enjoy the 3.5 miles of West Haven’s shoreline to do so responsibly. “It will be dealt with to the fullest extent of the law. We want people to come here and enjoy our shoreline.”

    “We will not be tolerating this activity or this behavior from out-of-town residents or from our own residents,” Borer said. “And anyone who engages in this activity will be held accountable.”

    Borer said the city has established a task force that was already in the works and has been accelerated because of the chaotic chain of events Monday night.

    “We actually have been meeting on security in the city, we just did not expect it to be as soon as it was,” she said. “We expected more toward Memorial Day.”

    The task force includes Borer, police, firefighters and the city’s emergency response director, council members, the public works team and the IT team. The goal of the task force is to “continue to look at modern approaches for monitoring activity and staying ahead of this,” Borer said.

    “As you can see, collectively as leaders of this city we take these matters very seriously,” she said. “We’re working together as a team.”

    According to Borer, city officials have a new camera system in the boardwalk area that captured still images of individuals at the beach Monday and license plates, which could lead to more arrests.

    Borer also said she declared an emergency that will allow city officials to close all parks and beaches at sunset — which aligns with neighboring communities. Those changes will remain in effect until officials are comfortable that something like this will not happen again, she said.

    The city will have an increased police presence in the beach area as well as more public works officials there from 3 to 11 p.m. to act as the “eyes and ears” for any escalating activity, Borer added.

    Police will also occupy a command post near the beach and use beach quads that the city intends to purchase in light of the events on Monday. The city also plans on contracting someone to monitor social media to get ahead of things like impromptu large gatherings.

    According to city officials, about 80% of the teens and young adults who gathered at the beach Monday were from out of town. Borer said she contacted the state Department of Transportation to discuss possibly putting an alert system in place when a bus driver sees that a large group of individuals are heading to a specific city.

    Borer said she is also looking to suspend multiple bus stops in West Haven frequently used by the youth when they are looking to access the beach.

    “I’ve also spoken with our West Haven Housing Authority and they’re going to bring in more security to their buildings that are located on the shore,” Borer said.

    The school system will hold an assembly to talk to local students about the incident and how it can be prevented in the future.

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