Wrong way driver gets nine years for crash

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BY BRUNO MATARAZZO JR.

REPUBLICAN-AMERICAN

NAUGATUCK — A man who drove the wrong way on Route 8 in 2021 while fleeing from police and ultimately stopped when an officer crashed into him head-on was sentenced Jan. 4 in Waterbury Superior Court to nine years in prison.

 

Donta Crockett, 32, of West Haven, pleaded guilty under the Alford Doctrine, meaning he acknowledged the state had enough evidence to convict him of evading responsibility with serious physical injury, criminal possession of a firearm and assault on a police officer.

Judge Joseph Schwartz sentenced Crockett to 15 years in prison, suspended after nine years. Following his release, he will have five years of probation.

James Tortora, the Naugatuck police officer who purposefully drove into the vehicle Crockett was driving, was injured in the crash but later released from a hospital. Tortora has since moved to the West Haven Police Department.

Waterbury State’s Attorney Maureen T. Platt said the officer willfully took the hit with his cruiser to prevent Crockett’s vehicle from striking innocent motorists.

“This event underscores the dangers our officers confront and exemplifies their selfless courage in risking their own safety in a split-second decision for the protection of the community,” Naugatuck Police Chief C. Colin McAllister said. “At the same time, the sentencing of this offender to a significant jail term ensures that this individual will no longer be a threat to the public.”

Crockett and his passenger, Jeffniqua Tyshon Smith, 30, of New Haven, fled on foot following the crash and later were captured with the help of a police K-9 and state police.

On July 2, 2021, police pursued Crockett’s vehicle after investigating a suspicious vehicle in the parking lot of Walmart, 1100 New Haven Road. Crockett fled, but officers found the vehicle on South Main Street and began pursuing it before it entered Route 8 southbound heading the wrong way, police said.

The vehicle kept going on and off the wrong way of the highway until it collided with the Naugatuck police cruiser.

Another K-9, Judge, helped police find 39 bags of crack cocaine, 80 bags of heroin, more than $3,500 in cash and a semi-automatic pistol in Crockett’s vehicle, police allege.

Crockett has been held on a $500,000 bond since his arrest.