(Updated) Mayor John DeStefano, offering new details about a dirt bike-van collision that led to a crowd beating a driver and a 15 year-old boy losing his life, renewed a call to tackle the challenge of “disconnected” teens.
DeStefano made the remarks at an unrelated City Hall press event in the wake of a Wednesday afternoon incident that has shocked the city.
The incident occurred between 4:30 and 5 p.m. Wednesday. A 15 year-old boy racing a stolen Honda dirt bike up and down Shepard Street ran into the back of a van. A crowd of his friends subsequently beat the driver, badly.
Both the driver and the biker went to Yale-New Haven Hospital as police blocked off Read and Shepard streets around 5 p.m. Wednesday and dealt with a chaotic scene.
The boy, Quinell Payne, died from his injuries at 3:34 a.m. at Yale-New Haven, according to hospital spokesman Mark D’Antonio.
The driver, believed to be in his 50s, was also seriously hurt, though not as severely as the boy. (Mayoral spokesman Jessica Mayorga said Thrusday afternoon that the driver’s condition was “stable.” He remained in the hospital. His name wasn’t released.)
DeStefano said Thursday that the driver will survive his injuries. He said at Quinel Payne had a history of trouble with the law and was out on juvenile probation. He also said some members of Payne’s family have had legal problems, too.
“I say that not to characterize the kid as a bad kid,” DeStefano said. “There’s a group of kids who are disconnected. That poses a challenge to us.”
(The mayor’s spokeswoman released a statement at 4:47 p.m. Thursday that further elaborated on Quinell Payne: “Payne, who mostly recently attended Hillhouse High School in New Haven, was well-known to New Haven Police. The City made numerous efforts, over the course of several years, to engage Payne through the services of four separate City agencies: the Board of Education, Youth at Work (where he began a job he later abandoned), the Street Outreach Workers Program and the New Haven Department of Police Services.” She also reported that the van driver’s name would “remain private until further notice for the benefit of the investigation and the individual’s safety.”)
The mayor was at pains not to have reporters misconstrue his statements. He made it clear that he considers the kids’ actions and the actions of the crowd that beat the driver “unacceptable, unacceptable.” He stressed that he was making no excuses for the misbehavior.
Rather, he said the incident underscores a point he’s been making often lately — that a hard-care group of 200-300 young people in the city appear to be beyond the reach of social programs, that everyone from government to families needs to work together to engage them.
“They develop their own set of values” and are “disconnected from family” and society.”
Mayor DeStefano said Thursday that police initially got a call around 1 p.m. Wednesday about kids taking turns racing around Newhallville on a stolen dirt bike. The cops weren’t able to track the kids down.
Then at 4:33 p.m. police got the call about the collision. They arrived at the scene by 4:37 p.m., he said.
The driver of this Ford van belonging to the Apple Management company was traveling west on Read Street, which is one way, through the intersection of Shepard Street. He did not have a stop sign. The intersection has two stop signs, on Shepard, but none on Read. Some neighbors think that’s a problem.
Fifteen-year-old Quinell had been riding the Honda dirt bike up and down Shepard, fast. He did have a stop sign. According to many witnesses, he didn’t stop. He rammed into the back of the van. He fell off the bike (pictured).
“His eye was coming out of his socket,” said one neighbor (pictured), who said she rushed to the boy and stood by him until the ambulance arrived. “He was bleeding out of his mouth” and barely if at all conscious.
James Lewis, the city’s new police chief, arrived and checked in with officers. He said that the dirt-bike rider was clearly in the wrong based on the evidence he saw and heard. “You see the flat tire,” Lewis said, pointing to the van.”They saw [the biker] flying down the street.”
Some boys who identified themselves as Quinell ‘s friends insisted the van driver was at fault.
But even neighbors sympathetic to the boy, including the woman in this photo, said he had run the stop sign and crashed into the van.
This neighbor, like a dozen other witnesses interviewed at the scene, declined to be identified.
The driver of the van emerged from his vehicle and looked at the dirt-bike rider sprawled in the street. The van driver was dazed, witnesses said.
A mother and daughter on Shepard watched the scene unfold from a front porch. They said that three teenaged boys who are friends of Quinell set on the driver. “They kicked him. They punched him. They stomped him.” More kids joined the fray — as many as 12, in some witnesses’ estimation.
Then the first officer arrived on the scene. Someone yelled, “The police are here.” The attackers fled on foot. (The police hadn’t caught up with any as of 6:15.) The two witnesses said it took the arrival of more cops for order to be brought to the scene.
For hours thereafter officers interviewed witnesses and gathered evidence.
The woman said she and others watched the events unfold from her porch on Shepard Street. “He’s riding up and down the street. It’s a hot day, he has nothing do,” she said. Drivers run that stop sign all the time, she said, making the street more dangerous.
She and others interrupted their tale to watch a brief report about the incident on the 6 o’clock TV news. They were outraged that the report focused on the driver’s injuries, not Quinell’s.
“It’s sad that they beat the guy up,” the woman said, resuming her tale. “You’ve got to understand, that was his friends. All they see is their friend lying lifeless. They were feeling a kind of rage.” She and two others on the block complained that it took an ambulance at least 15 minutes to arrive. “Then they walked by [the boy lying on the ground] to check on the driver.”
According to initial unconfirmed reports, the boy had an open skull fracture between his eyes and a shattered femur; the driver suffered severe head injuries from the beating.