Witkos: Another horrifying example of the lack of oversight in the state’s prison system; Shooting violence decried at New Haven vigil [NH Register]

October 27, 2014

New Haven Register

NEW HAVEN >> A candlelight vigil in honor of Erika Robinson was held in front of the former Key Club Cabaret Sunday, marking the one-year anniversary of her shooting death.

More than 100 friends, family members, community activists, law enforcement officials and political leaders gathered to pay homage to the life of the 26-year-old.

Robinson, of West Haven, was shot and killed Oct. 26 inside the club.

Adrian Bennett, aka “Bread,” 28 at the time of the shooting, has been charged with one count of murder, five counts of first-degree assault and criminal possession of a firearm in the incident.

The establishment is now The Primo Gentlemans Club.

“Today’s event represented the perfect recipe needed to confront the horrific acts of gun violence in America,” said Robinson’s cousin and family spokesman Shafiq Abdussabur. “We were fortunate to have brought together loving parents, a strong family, a dedicated federal senator, a community based police department, members of the clergy, support agencies, friends and concerned citizens.” Abdussabur is an author, racial profiling consultant and police officer.

“This is a true representation of a community network committed to finding solutions to end the tragic acts of gun violence that continue to threaten “the American Dream,” he said.

Abdussabur encouraged the Black community to support elected officials such as U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal and Gov. Dannel Malloy for their bold efforts in combating gun violence.”

Robinson’s father, Gregory Fulcher, 53, said he is not stopping the fight of bringing more attention to gun violence, particularly in the black community.

“We need to push the political agenda around gun violence, because it’s that serious for our community,” Fulcher said.

“It’s not only important for Erika’s life, but for other kids who may be in danger when they enter into night clubs,” he said.

The family is calling for a mandatory statute that all state nightclubs display signage “Enter at your own risk.”

Robinson was an avid fan of the New York Knicks and Washington Redskins, loved shoes and was a fashion entrepreneur, according to her family.

Robinson’s clothing line ‘High on Life’ was sold at Jimmy’s Hip Hop shop in West Haven.

Blumenthal, who attended the vigil and who has spoken on the Senate floor of the shooting death of Robinson, called again for Congress to pass laws that would prevent “such violence” said he has spoken with state legislators about the family’s proposal.

“I have spoken with a number of state legislators about it and I hope it will be given serious consideration in January,” said Blumenthal.

“I will work with them to see how we can encourage it from the federal level,” he said.

Blumenthal said over the past year he has made it a constant cause speaking on the floor of the senate, at rallies, and vigils for other victims.

“I have repeatedly invoked Erika Robinson’s name. I invoke her memory as an inspiration to me… Her memory and presence should be with us always as a reminder of how urgent this cause is.”

Gun violence expert and community activist the Rev. William Mathis, who offered words of encouragement to the family, said gun violence must become part of the domestic and international policy agenda.

“The data reveals that those who possess guns are more than likely to be killed by one or someone in their personal space,” said Mathis.

“The banning of semi automatic weapons does nothing to make any significant impact on urban gun violence often perpetrated with the use of illegally gained handguns.”Mathis believes that the black community must leverage economic wealth and political power as a way to reduce gun violence.

“The political process as we know it often places us in an awkward position to support the lesser of two evils,” Mathis said. “Perhaps we need our own agenda, clear and concise and allow that to drive our spending and voting.”

Andrew R. Doba, Malloy’s Director of Communications said Malloy was outraged by the tragedy that took Ms. Robinson’s life.

“The Governor was down in New Haven within hours of the shooting. His thoughts and prayers go out to her family on what must be another very difficult day since her life was needlessly cut short,” Doba said. “He hopes that he has the chance to work with her family on the steps they believe are necessary to prevent another incident like this from occurring.”

U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-3, said gun violence is ravaging communities across the United States.

“Tragedies like Erika’s death make clear that we must do more to ensure the safety of our families,” DeLauro said in a statement. “That includes common-sense safety measures like universal background checks and banning assault weapons and large capacity magazines.”

Blumenthal said he and U.S. Senator Chris Murphy, also a Democrat, fought for a comprehensive measure that would have made it a federal crime for illegal trafficking of firearms.

That portion of the bill didn’t pass.

More community involvement

State Senator Gary Holder-Winfield, D- New Haven, who was unable to attend the vigil, said he’d be willing to sit and speak with the family regarding the proposal.

“Gun violence is a multi-faceted problem and the approach to it isn’t one single law. You can put this piece of legislation in place but it does not mean that you’ve solved the problem,” said Holder Winfield.

“It’s not just gun violence, but it’s also how these clubs operate; this whole picture has to be discussed,” he said.

Republican State Sen. Kevin Witkos R-Simsbury, also said in a statement Robinson’s death was another horrifying example of the lack of oversight in the state’s prison system.

“The convicted felon arrested in this mass shooting violated his probation and then 3 months later brought a loaded gun into a packed nightclub and went on a shooting spree,” said Witkos, who is a member of the public safety committee. “For months, we have been asking for more oversight and accountability in our prison system.

When these felons get out someone of authority should be signing off that they have been rehabilitated and deserve release.”