By Ken Krayeske • 11:00 PM EST
Angel Carrion wanted to celebrate his nineteenth birthday – July 2 – with his family.
After that, he would turn himself in his alleged role in shooting three people on Shultas Place in Hartford’s south end April 23.
At least that's what a former Echoes From the Streets writer told me about Carrion. She called one night, sounding pretty serious.
"I can't talk about it on the phone," she said. We met at Sully's. She pulled me to a remote part of the Tiki Bar, and spun a tale I found too fantastic to believe.
"He's not armed and dangerous like they said on tv," she said. She flashed a cell phone photo of him – 5-8, 207 – trying on a too-small blue dress, smiling for the camera.
"He wants to go outside, but he can't," she said. If he went out during the day, he feared the cops might get him. At night, he was afraid that the posse he was beefing with wanted to kill him.
"I brought him lunch today," my friend said. "He wants to turn himself in, but he's scared there's a hit out on him in jail. And he can't afford the $30,000 retainer lawyers want."
His May 9 arrest warrant carried a $1 million preset bond.
"Could you help us?" she asked.
First thing next morning, I dialed a few defense attorneys I know. They advised me to contact the Public Defender's office. I figured on a Friday, no one would be in.
But I reached a public defender. He reasoned that Angel wouldn't go to court to meet, and the attorney wasn't going to Angel's hiding spot. If they could find a neutral spot before 4 p.m., the attorney would meet with him.
I gave the defender's phone number to my friend, who gave it to Angel's sister Josie. Josie called the lawyer, but Angel wanted to wait until his birthday to turn himself in.
Angel's plans changed June 12 when six state marshals descended on the Burger King where Josie works.
"They pulled me out of my job," she said. "They told me if he didn't turn himself in within two hours, they were going to take my son and arrest me."
Her son is eight years old. So, Angel and his mother headed up to Jennings Road.
"Carrion surrendered to detectives of the HPD's Major Crimes Division (MCD)," read the press release from June 13.
"On April 23rd, 2008, at approximately 7:20 p.m., Hartford Police officers responded to a report of shots fired in the vicinity of Franklin Avenue and Bond Street," the press release said.
"On arrival the first victim was located in a park on Bond Street suffering from a gunshot wound to the foot. A second victim, suffering from a gunshot would to the abdomen, arrived by private vehicle at Hartford Hospital, and a third victim was later treated at St. Francis Hospital for a superficial wound to his left leg," said the release of Angel's alleged crime.
This Friday, June 27, 2008, the 10 a.m. part E docket at Hartford Superior Court on Jefferson Street featured Carrion's arraignment. His three sisters, his mother, and about a half-dozen supporters started trickling in to the courthouse around ten of 10.
They waited outside while the court dealt with motor vehicle charges. When the marshal called the court into session, they stuffed into a few gallery benches to the right of Judge Curtissa Cofield.
Cofield rumbled through the mirandas, talking of diversionary programs available for first time offenders. At about 10:30, Cofield heard the first case about a 19-year-old accused of fighting with brass knuckles. She continued that to the end of July.
Then, marshals shuffled Carrion in from lockup. He wore a yellow jumpsuit, chains wrapped around his ankles, his wrists cuffed in front.
Judge Cofield asked if he needed an interpreter. No. Carrion whispered a few sentences to the public defender. The lawyer said something back.
"This matter is being transferred to Part A," the prosecutor said.
Carrion faces eight charges: six felonies including a pair of attempted murders, twin first-degree assaults, criminal use of a weapon and an unlawful discharge of a firearm, as well as two misdemeanors.
Cofield confirmed a $900,000 bond and continued the case to July 15.
It all took less than a minute. When marshals ushered him back into lockup, Carrion's people stood en masse and walked out. Bail bondsmen followed the group as Angel's mother leaned on one of her daughters and cried, dabbing her eyes with a tissue.
"Big crowd," one of bondsmen said. Through quick banter he learned the bond, and did the math.
"I need equity of $450,000," he said. I doubt Angel's mom could produce a 4,000 square foot home in Simsbury as collateral.
Angel's mom doesn't own a car with which she could drive to visit her son at MacDougall-Walker Correctional Institution in Suffield. Nor do buses run from Hartford to the Suffield prison, so she waits for her son's daily phone calls home, Josie said.
The Public Defender's office will represent Angel, and Josie said she is glad for that. She thanked me for making the contact, even if it didn't work out at first.
Listening to her made me feel a little bit better about generally being helpless in this situation. When my former student told me the tale, I was incredulous. Then I googled Angel.
His mugshot showed the same round face and pencil mustache that I saw on my friend's cell phone. My instinct was to rush to meet Angel. I could convince him to turn himself in.
On reflection, not only did the mission seem hazardous, I lacked the training, credentials and experience to facilitate something like this. Nor did I need any more run-ins with the law.
I justified my inaction by seeking a big picture. There must be others like him who don’t know how to get counsel, and their presence on the streets invites violence.
How do we reach out to these wanted people, accused of violent crimes, but who have no access to legal aid? Getting them off the streets could make for safe neighborhoods, and good news. But Angel's surrender made no headlines.
He stands accused of doing a bad thing. But he did a good thing by turning himself in. Unfortunately he needed to be coerced by state marshals. But HPD chief Daryl Roberts, in his press release, commended MCD Detective Seth Condon and Fugitive Task Force Detective Jeff Antuna.
"These two detectives never gave up on this investigation," the release quoted Chief Roberts as saying. "As a result of their perseverance a violent individual is in custody and our streets are safer."
And for the thrilling, full-circle – Gosh, isn't Hartford a really small town/In the interests of full disclosure – conclusion, Jeff Antuna is one of the cops I am suing for false arrest.