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Norwalk Neighbors Shocked By Outbreak Of Violence

NORWALK, Conn. – The sudden appearance of many guns shocked a Norwalk neighborhood Thursday afternoon, putting day care workers in evacuation mode and forcing residents to stay inside after they received an alarming phone call from the city.

A 24-year-old man, armed with a high-caliber rifle, was holed up at 4 Hillside Ave., threatening to shoot anyone in sight in his anger stemming from a domestic dispute, Norwalk Police Chief Thomas Kulhawik said. The standoff lasted more than an hour, as police swarmed the area, closing off streets and telling pedestrians to wait. Officers were poised to shoot the man if necessary, because he had fired a bullet to show he was serious, Kulhawik said. As the standoff ended, an armored truck finally arrived.

One mother on Hillside, whose shrubs were festively decorated with cobwebs, said she came out with her garbage to find police in the neighborhood, armed with rifles. "What's going on?" she asked.

She was baffled by the sudden uptick in violence in the city: She said her children had been in Flax Hill Park on Tuesday when a 17-year-old boy was screaming and bleeding profusely after being punched in the face. And Wednesday's carjacking at the nearby Stop & Shop was also on her mind.

"I don't know what's wrong with these people," said Michael Grant, who lives at 21 Hillside with his 19-year-old daughter and her 4-week-old baby. "The economy? ... These people are going crazy in this world."

Grant said he used to be a violent person and served four years in prison for manslaughter, which turned around his life. He now helps young people as a youth minister at Bethel AME Church.

He had little sympathy in this situation. Now waiting for disability payments, Grant earns $100 a day collecting cans and bottles, he said. "You can go out and find work," he said.

David Simmons had been upstairs in the old Benjamin Franklin Middle School, directly behind the home where the armed man was. "They said everybody have to leave, evacuate the building. But you can't leave, you gotta go to the gym," he said.

Officers searched the building, which includes the Norwalk Economic Opportunity Now Child Development Program and Employment Training Center. "For what?" he asked. "But then again, the smart thing was to send the children. They should be downstairs anyway."

Jewel Chowdhury was grinning from ear to ear, after picking up his 3-year-old son from the child development program. "I was scared, my son was in the NEON school," he said. "That is why I am so excited to come here, it's OK. Now is very good because my son is here."

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