Friends and family of Shamar Ogman huddled together Wednesday in the parking lot where he was killed four days ago, sharing their grief over losing the young father and bitterness at the Hartford police for shooting him.
About 25 family members and a dozen community activists held vigil for more than 90 minutes, lighting prayer candles in glass jars printed with the words “Ogman Strong” and personal messages for the 30-year-old Hartford man, whom they remembered as loyal and humble, a hard worker who possessed his late father’s strength.
Each time the wind snuffed out the candles’ flames, Ogman’s loved ones lit them again.
“This is a lot for us,” an aunt said. “This is something we never had to deal with and hope that nobody else will ever have to deal with or encounter.”
Ogman was allegedly pointing a rifle at police when he was shot and killed by Officer Ashley Martinez in the rear of the parking lot at 14-16 Gilman St., a few buildings down from his own apartment.
The standoff followed several minutes of officers chasing Ogman in the dark, jumping fences and running through backyards to keep him in their sights as they shouted at him numerous times to drop his gun, according to a preliminary report from the state’s attorney’s office and body camera footage released Tuesday.
As loved ones began to gather Wednesday, a man leaned out of a window of 14-16 Gilman St. and shouted his sympathies to them.
“I was in the house and I heard it and it just kills me to see another young man go,” he told them.
Antoine White, a cousin, said Shamar Ogman would light up a room with his smile. On Wednesday, he wondered there was anything else police could have done to de-escalate the situation that led to his death.
“He didn’t deserve to get shot,” White, 40, said. “That definitely shouldn’t have happened.”
Recent court records and police reports speak to the legal troubles Ogman was facing at the time of his death: four criminal cases filed since July, including gun charges and a probation violation for possessing real and fake firearms. Speaking with police about an alleged assault earlier this month, Ogman indicated he was suffering from mental illness.
His family said Wednesday that story is incomplete. They and several activists expressed anger at the initial reports from Hartford and state police and news coverage about Ogman’s death.
“We all have mistakes but we don’t know anybody’s mental status, what leads up to situations,” said his aunt, who did not give her name. “But everyone is so quick to be judgmental.”
“We are here because we are his backbone,” she said later. “His legacy will forever live on regardless of how you try to portray him, not just black lives matter but my nephew’s life mattered as well.”
Ronald Ogman, an older brother, said Shamar Ogman would often visit New Haven to check up on him. They spoke on Christmas, one day after Shamar Ogman appeared in court on one of his cases and one day before he died.
“His family was important to him. He always checked up on everybody, that’s how he is,” Ronald Ogman said. “This is crazy. ... He was a family man, a loving person, that’s it.”
An uncle who declined to give his name said he wished Shamar Ogman had reached out to talk about what he was going through. Looking around at Ogman’s brothers and cousins, the uncle said he regretted not being more of a figure in their lives.
“I just wish things was different. I wish he had called me,” the uncle said. “I been trying to get in contact with him but I wish he had called me.”
Court records show Ogman was arrested by Bloomfield and Meriden police in the two weeks before his death and by Hartford police in July, an incident that resulted in a probation violation charge.
Hartford police received a 911 text on July 1 about a man sitting in a car with a firearm with a red beam on it, according to an arrest warrant. Officers found Ogman with a weapon in his lap that looked to be a black handgun with an extended magazine, but was actually a BB gun with an empty magazine.
A search turned up three other BB guns.
Ogman was arrested again in the early hours of Dec. 15, after a Meriden police officer in an unmarked car pulled him over for allegedly driving in a suspicious manner.
Ogman initially refused to roll down his window to speak to police, saying he was in fear of his safety, and he “continued to be belligerent” throughout his arrest, according to court records.
Officers noticed the butt of a gun under his passenger seat; they seized a 9mm Glock handgun with extended magazine, a fake, .45-caliber pistol with extended magazine and another magazine with several bullets.
He was charged with two counts each of criminal possession of a firearm and possession of a weapon in a motor vehicle, as well as carrying a dangerous weapon, carrying a pistol without a permit and several misdemeanors.
As a condition of his release, a judge ordered electronic monitoring and that Ogman possess no weapons.
After he posted a $150,000 bond at the New Haven Correctional Center on Dec. 23, Ogman was held for Bloomfield police, who served him with a warrant for allegedly hitting an ex-girlfriend in the face two weeks prior.
Just after that incident, Ogman had told a Bloomfield officer that “he has a history of ‘mental issues,’ " but they are ‘under control.’ “ Ogman did not say what condition he may have, but “suggested it causes him to inappropriately manage his anger sometimes.”
Ogman’s death and the actions of the officer, Martinez, are under investigation by state police and the state’s attorney for the Judicial District of Ansonia-Milford.
Rebecca Lurye can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.