A Bridgeport man faces a number of charges following a violent spree that started when the car he was driving crashed into two motor vehicles on Newtown Turnpike. The spree ended after the man damaged two Redding police cruisers and led Weston and Redding police on a foot chase through the woods.
The suspect, later identified as Jaime Gonzalez, 39, of Bridgeport, was pepper sprayed and Tasered by Redding police before he was finally arrested.
The incident began shortly after 6 p.m., on Friday, July 13, when Weston police received a call about a “hit and run” motor vehicle accident on Newtown Turnpike.
According to the police report, William Walsh of Georgetown Road in Weston was in his Land Rover at the intersection of Newtown Turnpike (Route 53) and Godfrey Road, when the driver of a dark-colored four-door sedan put his car into reverse and rammed into the Land Rover at a high rate of speed. The sedan rammed the vehicle again on the side before it sped away on Newtown Turnpike toward Redding.
Police say at some point near the Redding town line, the suspect vehicle turned around and headed back towards Weston. It stopped near the intersection of Valley Forge Road and then backed up and rammed into a van driven by Emerson Phillips of Waterbury Street in Weston.
While Mr. Phillips called 911 to report the incident, the suspect got out of his vehicle and ran into Newtown Turnpike. He then returned to his car and started to drive off when he was stopped by Redding police who were responding to assist Weston.
Motor vehicle stop
According to Redding Police Chief Douglas Fuchs, while conducting a motor vehicle stop on the suspect vehicle, Mr. Gonzalez backed his sedan into a Redding police cruiser with Officer Jason Heibeck inside. The crash caused significant front-end damage to the cruiser.
Although the officer was shaken up, he was not injured, Mr. Fuchs said in a press release.
Weston Police Officer Robert Klein then arrived on the scene and attempted to help Redding police officers take the suspect into custody. But the man climbed out of the window of his car and ran into the woods with officers in pursuit.
During the chase, Redding police officers used pepper spray and a Taser to try to stop the man; however, he continued to run.
The suspect re-emerged from the woods, came back onto the road and started banging on the window of a second Redding police cruiser, ultimately breaking it with his fists.
After a short foot chase, during which time the suspect resisted officers, he was Tasered again by Redding police and was eventually subdued by both Weston and Redding officers.
After he was arrested, Mr. Gonzalez was transported by Weston EMS to Norwalk Hospital for treatment and evaluation. Weston Police Chief John Troxell said it is customary practice for a person who has been Tasered to be treated at the hospital to make sure the prongs of the Taser — which delivers an electrical shock — are removed properly.
There were numerous witnesses to the motor vehicle stop, including Stephan Grozinger, a member of the Weston Volunteer Fire Department, who was driving along Newtown Turnpike at the time. Mr. Grozinger helped Weston EMTs Jon Weingarten and Paul Deysenroth put Mr. Gonzalez onto a stretcher and load him into the ambulance.
“When I first stopped, I thought it was a routine traffic stop, but I quickly saw it was much more than that,” Mr. Grozinger said.
He said the suspect was swinging his arms and arguing violently with police as they tried to arrest him. “He was bellowing, saying threatening things, and throwing punches at the officers,” Mr. Grozinger said.
In his opinion, Mr. Grozinger said the police handled a potentially explosive situation very well. “Watching the extraordinary restraint the Redding and Weston police exercised, you couldn’t help but be immensely impressed. They clearly saved Mr. Gonzalez’s life,” he said.
Following the arrest, Chief Fuchs said, “This is a perfect example of why we carry Tasers. Had our officers not had Tasers, this would have been a really serious situation. He [the suspect] was a big guy and significantly out of control. There was no way hands-on tactics were going to work… Had it not been for the Taser, someone would have been significantly injured or worse.”
The Weston police officers who responded to the call on July 13 did not have Tasers with them.
Early last year, the Weston Police Commission approved a Taser policy that would allow officers to carry and use Tasers. However, because of budgetary constraints, Tasers have not yet been purchased, according to Chief Troxell.
The chief said there are three officers in the department trained to use Tasers — Joe Miceli, Travis Arnette and Daniel Cascone, and the department does have three Tasers on hand. However, a majority of the officers do not have Tasers and have not been trained to use them.
“The Tasers we want cost around $800 apiece and we need nine of them. The only thing holding up their purchase is funding,” Chief Troxell said.
The chief said he was hoping to cover the purchase of the Tasers through donations, but hasn’t received any offers yet.
After being treated at Norwalk Hospital and released back into Weston police custody, Mr. Gonzalez was arraigned in Norwalk Superior Court on Monday, July 16, and was charged with two counts of assault in the second degree, two counts of assault on a police officer, three counts of first degree reckless endangerment, threatening, three counts of first degree criminal mischief, breach of peace, three counts of reckless driving, and avoiding responsibility.
Chief Troxell initially set the bond for Mr. Gonzalez at $500,000. The bail commissioner reduced it to $250,000.
According to Weston’s police report, Mr. Gonzalez has a criminal record with previous arrests and convictions for narcotics, interfering with a police officer, resisting arrest and assault on a police officer.
The sedan used by Mr. Gonzalez in the motor vehicle incidents was a Hertz rental car.