By Elio Gugliotti, Editor
NAUGATUCK — A 19-year-old veteran of the Naugatuck Police Department is facing a lengthy recovery from two broken legs police say he suffered when a man and a woman fleeing from a reported larceny rammed their car into the officer Thursday afternoon at a construction zone on South Main Street.
“He does have a long road ahead of him,” said Deputy Police Chief C. Colin McAllister at a news conference Friday at the police department.
McAllister said Lt. Mark Pettinicchi, 47, suffered a shattered left ankle, a fractured right tibia and a fractured right ankle from the hit-and run. He said Pettinicchi, who is married with children, had surgery Friday at Waterbury Hospital, where he was recovering.
The sequence of events that put Pettinicchi in the hospital started at about 4 p.m. Thursday when police responded to Walmart, 1100 New Haven Road, to investigate a shoplifting. Police said an officer got to Walmart as a shoplifting suspect, identified as 49-year-old Francis Ibell, was trying to get into a gray Honda Ridgeline waiting in the area of 1081 New Haven Road.
Police said the officer caught Ibell after a brief foot chase.
Police said the driver of the Ridgeline, identified as Stanton Ragar Trent, 29, of New Haven, and his passenger, Asia Shynise Paulin, 25, of Waterbury, drove off and fled north on New Haven Road.
As the car approached a construction zone in the area of 561 South Main St., police said Trent ignored signals to stop from Pettinicchi, who was working private duty, and instead sped up and hit the officer. Police said witnesses described the act as intentional.
Pettinicchi called for assistance on his radio, sparking a pursuit of the Ridgeline by several police agencies. Police said officers pursued the Honda from Route 8, to Waterbury to Wolcott, back through Waterbury and Route 8.
McAllister noted the chase posed a danger to the public at large due to the suspects’ disregard to safety. He said police are looking into whether the Honda hit a school bus in Waterbury.
Given the circumstances, McAllister said officers decided to continue the pursuit.
The chase ended on Interstate 84 West in Middlebury between Exits 17 and 16, just east of the South Street Bridge overpass, where Trent and Paulin were arrested. McAllister said Trent pulled the Honda over.
McAllister said the two threw $14,000 in cash, 412 bags of heroin, 11 grams of cocaine and a loaded .380 pistol from the Honda during the chase. He said some items, including the gun, were recovered in Wolcott and others were seized on I-84 where Trent pulled over. He said officers are investigating the gun’s origins.
McAllister said the incident is a reminder to officers of the perils of the profession.
“The officers were reminded of the dangers they face every day,” he said.
Police charged Trent with first-degree robbery, first-degree assault, second-degree reckless endangerment, reckless driving, engaging police in pursuit, carrying a pistol without a permit, weapon in a motor vehicle and sixth-degree larceny.
Police charged Paulin with carrying a pistol without a permit and two counts of conspiracy at possession with intent to sell.
Police charged Ibell with first-degree robbery, sixth-degree larceny, interfering with an officer and possession of narcotics.
All three were held arraigned Friday in Superior Court in Waterbury, where Trent’s bond was set at $1 million.
Police released a photo of a silver SUV that was driving in the area at the time of the crash, possibly a Mazda Tribute, in hopes of locating the person or people inside as they may have witnessed it. Anyone with information is asked to contact police at 203-729-5221 or the department’s confidential tip line at 203-720-1010.
Editor’s note: This article has been updated from an earlier post.