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New Haven Records Sixth Homicide In Deadly Start To 2021

A memorial takes shape on a telephone pole near the site where 26-year-old Yale forestry graduate student Kevin Jiang was shot and killed in the Goatville section of New Haven’s East Rock neighborhood.
Ryan Caron King
Connecticut Public
A memorial takes shape on a telephone pole near the site where 26-year-old Yale forestry graduate student Kevin Jiang was shot and killed in the Goatville section of New Haven’s East Rock neighborhood. ";

The shooting death of a Yale University graduate student is being highlighted by New Haven officials as part of a recent rash of gun violence in the city.

Kevin Jiang, 26, of West Haven was shot Saturday night in New Haven’s East Rock neighborhood. He’s the sixth person in the city to be shot to death this year.

New Haven police assured residents that there wasn’t an active threat against the community -- and that the shooting may not have been random.

“That said, it is too early in the investigation to establish any motive whatsoever, and we ask anyone with information about this incident to call us right away and to speak with detectives,” Police Chief Otoniel Reyes said.

Reyes said that Jiang may have been driving when he was attacked and that police are exploring whether a road rage incident precipitated the shooting.

Reyes joined Yale President Peter Salovey and Mayor Justin Elicker at a news conference, which prompted a Facebook commenter to ask why the city hadn’t responded in a similar way to the previous five homicides in 2021.

“As mayor, I represent everyone in this city -- and that’s Kevin Jiang -- but it’s also Marquis Winfrey, who was shot and killed a few weeks ago. It’s also Joey Mattei, who was shot and killed several weeks ago as well,” said Elicker. “We are doing everything we can to ensure the safety of everyone in our community -- no matter who they are or what background.”

The Rev. Boise Kimber, a pastor at First Calvary Baptist Church who represents leadership of New Haven’s clergy, said no death should be taken lightly.

“Every life is important, and we should take the initiative to deal with every murder in this city as we’ve taken the time to deal with Kevin at this present time,” Kimber said.

The number of shootings in the city this year is four times the total at this point in 2020. Elicker points to a nationwide spike in gun violence during the pandemic. But while Connecticut’s five largest cities experienced an uptick in violent crime in 2020, only New Haven is reporting one now.

“I can assure you that a lot has been done, even predating these incidents, to curb the violence in this city,” Reyes said. “We’ve seized over a dozen guns just so far this year.”

New Haven Police Chief Otoniel Reyes
Credit Ryan Caron King / Connecticut Public
Connecticut Public
New Haven Police Chief Otoniel Reyes speaks at a news conference on the steps of the New Haven Police Department, addressing two incidents of gun violence over the weekend in which a Yale graduate student was killed and the home of an assistant schools superintendent was shot at.

Kimber urged city officials to deal with what he called a violence pandemic by expanding partnerships with outside agencies.

During the news conference, Salovey took time to acknowledge Jiang’s accomplishments, lauding him for giving a lot and having “more to give.” Jiang served in the National Guard and was working with the Yale School of Environment, monitoring mercury levels in the Quinnipiac River.

“He wanted to use his education and experiences to make a positive difference in the world,” Salovey said.

In addition to finding out what happened to Jiang, New Haven police are also seeking tips in identifying the person who shot at the home of a New Haven assistant superintendent on Saturday. Reyes said someone pulled up to the home in the Beaver Hills neighborhood and fired as many as four shots. The house was occupied at the time, but no one was hurt.

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