DERBY — New Beginnings Church of God in Derby is organizing a prayer vigil for the people — and the Derby neighborhood — affected by this week’s deadly car crash in Seymour.
The crash took the life of Shyheim Samuel, 20, of Derby.
The vigil is scheduled for 7 p.m. Friday (April 14).
It will take place after a mournful — and, at times, tense — Wednesday night in the Anson Street area.
That’s the Derby neighborhood where Samuel lived, as did another, unidentified survivor from Tuesday’s crash — and it is where Friday’s vigil will happen.
The idea is to help Samuel’s family and friends deal with their loss through prayer. The public is invited to attend.
“We want to come together as a community and support each other,” Pastor Dennis Marroquin said.
Mayor Anita Dugatto will attend as a show of support, as will Derby Public Schools Superintendent Matthew Conway.
“Derby is sad about the loss of life of one so young. Our prayers and condolences to his family,” Dugatto said.
New Beginnings Church of God meets in the basement of the Derby United Methodist Church at the corner of Elizabeth and Fifth streets at the top of the Derby Green.
A procession will leave the church at 7 p.m. Friday, then walk across Elizabeth Street toward Anson Street.
Samuel, a former Derby school student, lived with his family on Fifth Street. It’s also the same neighborhood where Marroquin lives.
Marroquin said Samuel had lived in Derby since he was a kid.
“He was a quiet kid. He didn’t bother anybody. He wasn’t loud. To be honest with you he was one of the most humble kids in the neighborhood,” Marroquin said. “He was raised right.”
Gun Shots, Car Crash
Samuel’s friends are clearly reeling from Samuel’s death.
A large group of mourners were in the neighborhood Wednesday, but two incidents marred the gathering.
First, someone allegedly fired a gun near the intersection of Anson and Fifth about 5:40 p.m. as a large crowd stood watch. No injuries were reported.
Police responding to the scene were told the person who fired the gun handed it to another man.
Police said they found a handgun and some marijuana in the possession of Emmanuel Fletcher, 20, of Olivia Street.
Fletcher was charged with carrying a pistol without a permit, possession of marijuana and interfering with an officer. He was not charged with firing the weapon. Police are still investigating.
He was being held Thursday on a $35,000 bond pending an April 20 court date.
Mayor Dugatto and another person interviewed by the Valley Indy said the gun may have been fired toward the sky, a terribly misguided tribute to Samuel.
Police are looking into that possibility.
Then, about 11:30 p.m. Wednesday, a car leaving the neighborhood hit a wall and flipped at the corner of Fifth and Minerva.
Two men were injured. One man was thrown from the car.
Their names were not released.
People in the neighborhood said the men in the car were Samuel’s friends, and had been part of the large contingent mourning the young man’s death.
Derby police had limited information on the crash Thursday. Police noted both men were in stable condition at Yale-New Haven Hospital. Click here for a previous Valley Indy story on the crash.
Both the gunshots and the crash are under investigation by Derby police. People with information should call 203-735-7811 ext 319.
The Big Picture
In addition to Samuel, one of the other people injured in Tuesday’s crash is also from Derby’s Anson Street area. That unnamed person also attended Derby Public Schools at some point.
Anson Street — along with Hawkins and Lafayette — is densely populated, stuffed with multi-family houses, apartment buildings, and condos.
There are a ton of young kids on the block — as evidenced by the basketball hoops, toys, bicycles and Big Wheels always in play in the neighborhood.
Most of the youngest kids in the neighborhood attend the Irving School. Many come from low-income families. Some 67 percent of the students at Irving qualify for free or reduced price lunch.
So the Anson Street area has problems not unlike a larger city, albeit isolated to a two- or three-block radius.
Wednesday’s incidents were not an anomaly. The neighborhood and surrounding area had issues in the past with crime and violence.
New Beginnings Church of God often holds vigils on Anson Street to pray for the betterment of the area.
There’s still work to be done, Marroquin said.
“We’re going to have a community prayer for the family, and also everyone affected by this tragedy. This is also for all our kids. We want to come together and be the light in all this darkness,” Marroquin said.
Mayor Dugatto said she was on Anson Street Wednesday evening and counted at least 100 people lining the street.
“I think emotions were running high, obviously,” the mayor said. Dugatto said Marroquin is deeply committed and connected to that particular neighborhood. She credited him with organizing Friday’s vigil.
“I think he’ll channel that energy into a positive direction,” she said.
Meanwhile, Conway, the school superintendent, said the school district and others are working on a plan to address the underlying problems in the community.
Both Conway and Derby High School Principal Martin Pascale were in the area Wednesday and Thursday talking to families.
“Prior to these events, we have met to discuss creating a much more actionable approach to addressing some of the indicators we observe that are associated with youth in need of more, or different, supports,” the superintendent said in an email. “(There is) much more to come, but it is a daily conversation, and draft plans are being written, after having met with community partners over the past few weeks.”
Seymour Fatal Crash Investigation
Meanwhile, the circumstances surrounding Samuel’s death Tuesday on Rimmon Street in Seymour remain under investigation.
There were five other people traveling with Samuel in the car 9:30 p.m. when the driver — whose name has not been released — lost control and slammed into a utility pole.
The people in the car ranged in age from 14 to 22.
Seymour police said they are building a criminal case against the unnamed driver, and indicated evidence of some type had been recovered at the scene.
Seymour Deputy Chief Paul Satkowski said the investigation is complicated, and will take time. No new information on the case was released Thursday other than the initial 911 calls made immediately after the crash.
The state police accident reconstruction team is heavily involved in the probe.