Government Police/Fire

West Hartford Police Add Attempted Murder to Charges Against Suspect in ‘Relationship-Based’ Shooting at USJ

West Hartford Police Lt. Thomas Lazure and other members of the Detective Division brief reporters on Nov. 7 on the arrest of Darnell Barnes. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

West Hartford Police released additional details following the arrest late Sunday night of Darnell Barnes, who is the suspect in a shooting that occurred Friday on the campus of the University of Saint Joseph.

Darnell Barnes. Courtesy of West Hartford Police

By Ronni Newton

A suspect who was taken into custody on an active and extraditable arrest warrant late Sunday night, faces a slew of charges that now also include criminal attempt at murder and unlawful discharge of a firearm related to an incident that began just before 2:30 a.m. Friday in a parking lot on the campus of the University of Saint Joseph, Lt. Thomas Lazure of the West Hartford Police Department’s Detective Division said at a press conference Monday morning.

West Hartford Police were notified at 10:18 p.m. Sunday that Darnell Barnes, 22, had turned himself in to Farmington (CT) Police and was taken into custody. Barnes was brought to West Hartford where he then was arrested on the charges listed on the active warrant – first-degree assault, first-degree reckless endangerment, evading responsibility, first-degree criminal mischief, and second-degree assault with a motor vehicle – as well as the new charges of criminal attempt at murder and unlawful discharge of a firearm based on information developed by police over the weekend.

While the investigation remains very active, with details left to be filled in, police have pieced together a timeline of events that occurred in what Lazure said was a “relationship-based incident” involving a female student at USJ that appears to have involved shots fired both in parking lot X – a gravel parking lot on the western edge of the USJ campus – and on Albany Avenue after the suspect rammed the victim’s car and caused it to roll over and crash.

“This incident was isolated between three individuals – two males and one female, one of which is a student at the University [of Saint Joseph],” Lazure said. “There was an altercation at the University where shots were fired at the victim. This incident continued from the University of Saint Joseph onto Albany Ave where a vehicle that the suspect was driving made contact with the victim’s vehicle. As a result of that contact the suspect’s vehicle rolled over and additional shots were fired on Albany Ave. in the area of the Calvary Church.”

Both the victim and the female were 19, police said. All three individuals knew each other, according to police, and all three are Connecticut residents.

“The USJ community greatly appreciates the continued progress West Hartford Police have made in their investigation which continues to be ongoing,” Stacy Routhier, director of marketing and communications for USJ, said in a statement Monday. “They have shared with us that a female USJ student knew both the suspect and the victim. Her identity is not being shared at this time. USJ will continue to provide updated information as it becomes available from the West Hartford Police.”

Police said the USJ student, who lives on campus, was not in a vehicle when the shots were fired in the parking lot. They did not indicate whether or not the student was in the vehicle with the victim when he fled onto Albany Avenue.

The victim, whose name was not released, was shot several times but is expected to recover from his injuries and is talking with police. He was the owner of the vehicle in which he fled the scene, police said.

Assistant Chief Lawrence Terra told reporters that the victim likely drove across the grass as he fled from X lot to reach Albany Avenue, apparently with the suspect in pursuit. While the northern edge of campus borders that road, there is no vehicle access.

Police were able to determine, from evidence at the crash scene, the type of vehicle that Barnes was driving and the investigation indicated it was headed toward Massachusetts.

Massachusetts State Police troopers found the suspect’s vehicle, a black Nissan Pathfinder with New Mexico plates, on the west side of the Massachusetts Turnpike, near Mile Marker 31.6, in Blandford. The vehicle was unoccupied and has now been seized.

“We feel confident that this is just isolated between the three of them,” Lazure said. Police are still developing details about how Barnes got back to Connecticut after abandoning his vehicle in Massachusetts.

No firearm was recovered either in the vehicle, or in Barnes’ possession when he turned himself in to Farmington Police. “He surrendered with counsel present,” Lazure told reporters, and invoked the fifth amendment.

Police said Barnes did have a valid pistol permit – which has since been revoked, Lazure said. A 9mm gun was used in the incident, but police did not have details about the model of the firearm. They do not believe that the victim was armed, and have not recovered any weapons thus far.

Police said the argument, which began on campus, “was over a relationship.” No information developed thus far indicates that illegal drugs were involved in the incident.

“Several” shots were fired, but police did not indicate how many.

Barnes does not have any prior criminal history, Lazure said. He was due in court Monday morning, was being held on $1 million bond. Police did not have information about whether he remained in custody.

“By the grace of God nobody died,” Lazure said. “There are rounds being fired and it’s on a college campus. It’s a senseless act of violence that occurred here in town. We know it, we felt it. We’re not used to this type of stuff but we were ready.” Police absorbed as much information as they could in the middle of the night. “It’s scary,” he said. “It just heightens our level of alertness when it happens on campus with students, in the dark … with non-students,” But, he added, “We will chase you to the end of this earth to track you down if you commit a crime of violence here,” Lazure said.

There were cameras on campus, but video is not being released to the public, police said. West Hartford Police administration has met with the University of Saint Joseph to review protocols.

Massachusetts State Police, and Poughkeepsie, NY police also assisted West Hartford Police in the investigation which involved multiple detectives. Lazure said he did not know why Barnes surrendered to Farmington Police.

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