HARTFORD —The Rev. Dr. Augustus Sealy, who leads the First Church of the Nazarene on Capitol Avenue, was injured at about 6:30 a.m. Sunday in a drive-by shooting, police said.
Sealy, 54, was planting small flags in the church’s lawn at 932 Capitol Ave. in honor of Memorial Day. He was shot in the leg and shoulder.
A witness identified a black car traveling west on Capitol Avenue, slowing as it passed the victim, and heard five gunshots. Seven shell casings were found on the scene, police said.
Dr. Sharon Sealy, his wife, usually spends the weekends at the parsonage in the Parkville neighborhood, and the couple live in Shrewsbury, Mass., during the week. Augustus Sealy has a private counseling practice in Massachusetts.
Sunday, Sharon Sealy was in Massachusetts because their two grown children and her two sisters were gathering to travel to Hartford for an appreciation service and luncheon honoring her husband for his five years at the church.
She said getting the news her husband had been shot was “devastating,” repeating the word three times for emphasis. The drive to Hartford, and several hours of waiting in the hospital until he came out of surgery “was the longest day of my life,” she said. She said her husband’s femur was shattered, and doctors put a metal rod in his leg.
As she waited at Hartford Hospital, more than 200 congregants worshipped at the church.
“They were puzzled. They were trying to make sense of this,” said the Rev. Eustace McDonald, a Church of the Nazarene pastor from Brooklyn, N.Y. He preached at the packed 11 a.m. service.
McDonald drew from the first Book of Samuel, a passage that describes what David and his soldiers did after the village where their families were living was burned by the enemy, and their wives and children taken captive. “They were so distressed that they cried till they had no more tears,” he said.
But David prayed to God and was encouraged that he would be victorious.
“Misfortune in life comes to us all,” McDonald said. He said what matters is how you respond. “You have to go to a place of hope.” At the end of the service, McDonald said, “We left that place strangely rejoicing.”
Rominita Cuadrado, who started attending the church three years ago when she moved nearby, said it was hard attending worship knowing that the pastor had been shot. “He’s a very kind person, very loving person,” she said.
But at the end of the service, she said, she felt uplifted. “We all did.”
Sharon Sealy said this is the fifth church her husband has served in the United States, after his first church in St. Lucia, where he was born and raised.
Many of the congregants are also West Indies immigrants, but there are also Latinos, African Americans and whites who belong.
“A lot of different cultures, that’s a rich place to be,” said Sealy, who’s an assistant principal at a Boston elementary school. “I really love that.”
The daylight shooting of a pastor in front of his church drew wide attention. Mayor Pedro Segarra attended services, and McDonald said a diplomat from St. Lucia did, too.
Sunday evening, the Rev. Henry Brown arrived at the church, where about 10 women and a man from the congregation were still gathered.
“I am tired of people being shot,” he said, projecting as if he were speaking from the pulpit.
Brown has been holding vigils against gun violence in Hartford for 15 years, and he told the group he’d have one Tuesday at 6 p.m. there. “The devil is not going to win here,” he said. Several women replied, “Hallelujah” or “Amen.”
A second shooting occurred about 6:41 a.m., Sunday at 402 Garden St., Deputy Chief Brian J. Foley said.
Robert Jones, 27, of Hartford was shot multiple times and listed in serious but stable condition at St. Francis Hospital and Medical Center.
Foley said police were considering the possibility that the shootings Sunday morning were related, but said that so far no evidence supports that theory.