Hillhouse football player shot in New Haven

Hillhouse High School in New Haven (file).
Hillhouse High School in New Haven (file).

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) — A football coach at Hillhouse High School confirms to News 8 that one of his players was involved in a shooting in the Dwight neighborhood of New Haven Thursday.

Coach Reggie Lytle spoke with News 8 Friday morning, and confirmed that a player on the team was shot last night. Lytle said the player, identified by police as 18-year-old Derrick Smith, was shot in the stomach and the leg.

New Haven Police say they were investigating a domestic complaint on Ellsworth Avenue around 7:17 Thursday night when they heard gunfire to their north and began to head toward that direction. Officers saw two men running across the street. One was lost from sight as he cut through back yards, the other was detained and questioned by police.

Police spotted a vehicle on Stanley Street that had several bullet holes through the window. The car was parked and unoccupied. Officers located Smith in the back yard of a home at 58 Stanley Street. Smith was transported to Yale-New Haven Hospital for treatment. Police say they recovered a revolver near the scene.

Coach Lytle said that the student athlete will be okay, and is expected to have surgery on Saturday. Lytle was with the player at the hospital Thursday night into Friday morning. Police say Smith’s condition was stable as of Thursday night.

A witness described the shooter as a black male with a medium complexion, standing 5’9″. He is thin and wore his hair in short braids. The witness says the shooter wore a black hooded sweatshirt with white draw-strings and black or dark blue jeans.

Police hope video surveillance will produce additional leads in the case. A second gun was located as officers searched the driveway of a building near Ella T Grasso Boulevard and Chapel Street. Police say the second gun was found near the spot where officers originally saw the two men fleeing earlier in the night.

New Haven School Officials have initiated YouthStat protocols in response to the shooting. That YouthStat meeting was held at Hillhouse Friday afternoon.

New Haven Public Schools Superintendent Garth Harries released a statement Friday saying;

Right now our main concerns are ensuring all our students in the school are safe, making sure we can continue to support and communicate with the student’s family, and helping our students cope with this incident. Last night, District and school administrators were on site with the family to represent the district’s ongoing support through the situation. We immediately initiated YouthStat because this is when our at-risk students need that kind of tailored engagement the most. Today and over the weekend we will continue doing all we can to support the student’s family as well as the community, and we’re hoping for a safe and speedy recovery.”

The news surprised and upset students. Chyna Johnson says she had seen Smith yesterday, then heard on the news that he had been shot.

“I went to my mom and cried because on my way home I saw him and he waved to me,” said Johnson. “He was just at football practice.”

Students wished him a speedy recovery.

“I just hope he gets better,” said Johnson. “I hope he comes back stronger than ever. I hope he wins some football games for us.”

The Academics played against Daniel Hand High School of Madison Friday night. The sights and sounds of at Hillhouse High School were darkened by a shooting.

Parents and students saddened by the news that Smith got shot late Thursday night. He played outside linebacker for Hillhouse and is in serious but stable condition at the hospital. William Gardner also plays football in New Haven.

“I just got home and found out that he had been shot he played for Hillhouse team and I knew him because he went to Hide with him and he be around my older sisters and stuff. So it was sad, but it is what New Haven is.”

As word spread through the high school and on Twitter and Facebook, there was concern the violence might spill from the streets into the football stadium. That’s why the school superintendent Garth Harries and the police department beefed up security at the stadium but more than a dozen officers visible and present inside and outside the facility.

“We also spent a lot of time today trying to engage and find out exactly what was going on with that student, what exactly was going on in that community. One of the things we are really proud of all of us amazing football stadium, is our YouthStat program. Which is a program for our disengaged students.”

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