Parishioners stood swaying and singing as they called for unity and change at Varick Memorial AME Zion Church in New Haven. The parish hosted a community prayer service Sunday following a recent shooting incident in which an unarmed woman was injured earlier this month.
Pastor Kelcy Steele said police shootings in the state have led to division and mistrust between communities and law enforcement and healing will require a robust partnership.
“We are committed to building bridges between police and community,” Steele told church members and visitors. “And we understand that policing in America is facing a crisis of legitimacy and purpose.”
Hamden acting police Chief John Cappiello was among several officials who attended the two hour service. He said it provided an opportunity to listen. “They’re very passionate,” Cappiello said.“They make some very good statements. And being with people, it’s just positive.”
Hamden Lieutenant Frank McDermott and several members of the New Haven Board of Alders also attended the service along with New Haven police Capt. Anthony Duff, who was there on behalf of Mayor Toni Harp and the New Haven police department.
“There is a real and genuine pain within the community and I think that was conveyed before the service, and during the service, by members of the congregation,” Duff said. “From all that I’ve heard, I walk away feeling good.”
Hamden officer Devin Eaton and Yale officer Terrance Pollock fired a total of 16 shots at a car that was followed after reports of an attempted armed robbery, in the April 16 incident. Stephanie Washington, 22, who was a passenger in the car, was injured. The driver, 21-year-old Paul Witherspoon, was not injured. Authorities say no guns were found.