Boy’s alleged killers face judge
BRIDGEPORT - Charged with killing 12-year-old Clinton Howell in a drive by shooting last month, 18-year-old Tajay Chambers will have a choice.
“I’m going to ask you if you choose to have a hearing on probable cause or not,” Superior Court Judge Robert Devlin told Chambers on Tuesday as the defendant looked about the courtroom.
The judge then continued the case to Jan. 28.
Next out was 16-year-old Alexander Bolanos Jr., who police said was the driver of the car.
Through a Spanish interpreter Bolanos pleaded not guilty to conspiracy to commit murder, carrying a pistol without a permit and second-degree larceny. He asked for a jury trial.
His case was continued to Jan. 31.
In the back of the courtroom Howell’s family sat grim-faced. They left after the hearing declining comment.
Chambers, is charged with murder with special circumstances, murder, use of a firearm during the commission of a felony, illegal carrying or possession of a pistol or revolver without a permit, three counts of risk of injury to a child, first-degree reckless endangerment and second-degree larceny. He is being held in lieu of $1 million bond.
If convicted of murder with special circumstances Chambers could be sentenced to life without the possibility of release.
In a hearing on probable cause state prosecutors would have to present their evidence in the case before a judge to determine if they have probable cause to try Chambers for murder. However, in most cases defendants decide to waive such hearings.
Shortly after 9 p.m. on Dec. 18, Howell was standing outside his Willow Street home with an older cousin when he was shot in the chest. Police said Chambers had been aiming for the cousin who had shot at their stolen car with a BB gun.
An undocumented immigrant from Jamaica, Chambers joined his family in Bridgeport 18 months ago.
Enrolling in September at Central High School, he quickly formed his own gang with 16-year-old Alexander Bolanos Jr. and a 14-year-old and a 12-year-old whose names are not being released, police said.
On Oct. 8, they attacked a 16-year-old boy in a stairwell of the high school, police said. Police said as the victim protested he was not involved in “gang stuff,” Chambers and associates pummeled him and then kicked him down the stairs.
Police said they had a rivalry with a supposed gang from the city’s Eastside calling themselves the BGs or Blitz Gang and were using Facebook and Snapchat to trade boasts and insults.
According to the arrest warrant affidavit, Chambers told Police Det. Adam Roscoe that on Dec. 18, Bolanos and the two other youths had picked him up in a Ford Escape they had previously stolen on Madison Avenue. Chambers took over the driving and they went to a location in Stratford to make a sneaker trade. While driving back Chambers received a Snapchat video on his cell phone from Howell’s cousin who Chambers told the detective is a member of the BGs.
“In the video (the cousin) showed them the Willow Street sign and they understood this to be a dare or challenge. Chambers stated that after receiving the video he said, ‘they just hit me, they are on Willow,’” the affidavit states.
With Bolanos now at the wheel, the four drove to Willow Street.
At first, they didn’t see any BG members, so they drove around the block twice, the affidavit states. On the third pass, they saw Howell’s cousin who they believed to be one of the captains of the BGs. He was coming back from the corner store with the younger Howell.
When the cousin saw them, he fired at them with a pellet gun, the affidavit states. Bolanos then drove to the end of the block and made a U-turn. One of the other youths in the car handed Chambers a loaded 9mm handgun and Chambers told the detective he extended his hand out the rear passenger window and fired twice.
“I didn’t know that he was 12 years old,” police said Chambers told them. He said he didn’t know he shot someone until he saw it on the website Doing It Local.
Police said they later recovered the gun used in the shooting.