Prayers answered with suspect’s arrest

Torrance Dawkins, left, who grew up in Naugatuck and Waterbury, was 22 when he was murdered in New Haven in 2013. He is seen here with his paternal grandmother, Gloria Garcia, who says she prays for her grandson's killer. -CONTRIBUTED

Torrance Dawkins, left, who grew up in Naugatuck and Waterbury, was 22 when he was murdered in New Haven in 2013. He is seen here with his paternal grandmother, Gloria Garcia, who says she prays for her grandson’s killer. -CONTRIBUTED

NAUGATUCK — The family of murder victim Torrance Dawkins hoped and prayed for nearly three years that police would one day capture the person responsible for killing the affable young man on his 22nd birthday.

When times got tough, they didn’t give up hope. Instead, they handed out fliers in downtown New Haven, where he was killed, urging people with information to come forward. They also held parties on his birthday, reached out to the media to keep it fresh in people’s minds and held rallies for the victims of violence.

Last week, police told them they had enough evidence to arrest a killer.

On Monday, New Haven police and federal law enforcement officials announced that 24-year-old Jean Bruny, a New York man, has been charged in connection with the Aug. 11, 2013, shooting that claimed Dawkins’ life. He was shot once in the head at the now-defunct Cheetah Club at 169 East St. in New Haven.

Police say surveillance video shows that Bruny specifically targeted Dawkins and shot him execution style while Dawkins, who grew up in Naugatuck and Waterbury, was out with friends celebrating his 22nd birthday.

Bruny is being held on a $1 million bond in federal custody. He was already in prison on other federal charges. He has a lengthy criminal record that includes assault, burglary, gun crimes and robberies in New York. He has been in and out of prison since 2009.

Despite the pain she feels, Gloria “Gola” Garcia of Waterbury, Dawkins’ paternal grandmother, said she has prayed for Bruny and continues to do so.

“She is glad he hasn’t been killed,” said her daughter, who is also named Gloria Garcia.

Her mother does not speak English and so the younger Gloria Garcia spoke to the press on her behalf.

“We are happy that he has been arrested so he can’t do this to someone else,” the younger Gloria Garcia said. “But at the same time, it makes a lot of the memories fresh again and the pain is fresh again.”

She said police have not told them much because the case is still under investigation and there may have been other people involved. Family members say Dawkins, who had been arrested for selling drugs within a school zone, possession of a firearm without a permit and reckless endangerment years before his death, was working on getting his life on the right path.

They say he had been in a gang years earlier but had left that life and was looking forward to being a father as a girl he had dated was expecting a child.

Dawkins’ mother, Tamara Dawkins, of Naugatuck, said her family believes he would have been a good father and adult. Family members say he was a caring young man who loved his family and friends.

“We were initially shocked and there was anger but my heart has started to come at ease because (Bruny) is not out there anymore to hurt anyone else and now we can begin to heal, me and my daughters,” she said. “I didn’t think this day would come. I am pleased with the work of police investigators. Right now I’m trying to move on and just working on making it.”