Hartford police ask for help in homicide at July 4 party; victim was not target, they say

Photo of Christine Dempsey
A Hartford police car is shown in this contributed photo. 

A Hartford police car is shown in this contributed photo. 

Hartford Police / Contributed Photo /

HARTFORD — One day after what police said was the double shooting of bystanders at a Fourth of July party, one of whom died, investigators are asking for help.

“Somebody needs to come forward,” Lt. Aaron Boisvert said Tuesday. He said there were more than 100 people at the party outside a multi-family house on Shultas Place.

Jayla Heaven, 22, died. She would have turned 23 on July 19. A man, also in his 20s, was injured but is expected to survive, Boisvert said.

Heaven appears to be an unintended target, he said. She is the third such victim in recent months: On May 10th, Guillermo Gonzalez, 59, was fatally shot while standing in front of a bodego on Zion Street, and on March 16, Cynthia Reynolds, 62, was gunned down when she was tending to her garden.

Last year, on June 9, Sylvia Cordova was fatally shot while standing in her kitchen, police said at the time. Police have made arrests in the case.

Heaven’s death is the 22nd in the capital city this year, which puts its homicide rate ahead of 2021’s. Last year at this time, there had been 20 homicide victims, Boisvert said Tuesday.

Last year ended with 35 deaths and was Hartford’s deadliest since 2003, when a nursing home arson killed 16, according to The Hartford Courant. The 2022 homicide rate in Hartford has nearly caught up with the number of homicides in the capital city in all 2020 — 25.

Police have obtained grants, formed a shooting response team, saturated certain neighborhoods with police and took other actions to combat gun violence, which they believe paused deadly gun violence for a few weeks recently, but now they’re asking for the public’s help.

Shortly after Monday’s deadly double shooting, Boisvert pointed out the number of witnesses and asked for them to talk to police. He said gunfire erupted after a fight broke out at the party on the residential street between Maple and Wethersfield avenues in the southern half of the city. Police said they don’t believe Heaven or the wounded man were involved in the fight, but they need more information.

“There were dozens of people who saw this happen,” Boisvert told TV reporters. “Dozens. We need a call. We need a phone call, a tip, something to point us in the right direction here.”

Anyone with information is asked to call the Hartford Police Department tip line, 860- 722-8477 (TIPS).