PROSPECT — State police have arrested a man suspected of being a slain man’s accomplice in an attempted armed robbery of Route 69 Auto Sales and Services in late November.
State police arrested Alton Sherrod Woods, 56, of Waterbury, on a warrant Tuesday morning, charging him with first-degree robbery, criminal possession of a firearm, first-degree unlawful restraint, first-degree manslaughter, first-degree manslaughter with a firearm, first-degree assault and conspiracy.
The charges stem from an incident that played out on the night of Nov. 30. Shortly before 7 p.m., two masked men, armed with handguns, barged into the business at 69 Waterbury Road, police said. The men then began assaulting an employee and the owner near the customer service area.
A customer, who was carrying a gun at the time, was at the dealership with his wife to buy a car. The customer, whose name wasn’t released, told police one of the masked men began to hit the owner in the face with a handgun while the other man pointed a gun at him and his wife, according to the arrest warrant.
The customer, who was licensed to legally own and carry the gun, told police he began to back up to the front door of the business, drew his handgun and fired three shots at the man pointing a gun at him and his wife. While helping his wife leave the dealership, the customer told police he fired three more shots, according to the arrest warrant.
He told police he feared for his life and the lives others in the business.
When the customer started firing, the two masked men fled out the back of the business, according to police.
One of the masked men, Torrance Battle, 44, of Waterbury, was shot several times, according to police. He was found lying on his back near the tree line at 11 Terry Lane, about 400 feet from the dealership, according to the arrest warrant. Paramedics pronounced him dead at the scene, police said.
Through the investigation, police continued to find signs that led them to Woods as possibly being the second suspect.
The day after the robbery attempt, a man at 7 Terry Lane found a walkie talkie, black sweatshirt and a pair of blue vinyl gloves in his trash can, as well as a black mask in a nearby gutter drain, the arrest warrant states. The warrant states DNA found on the interior collar of the sweatshirt matched DNA on file for Woods.
Also, a black backpack left at Battle’s home the night of the robbery had paperwork with Woods’ name on it, police said.
Woods, who was living at a halfway house in Waterbury, was working at Macy’s Logistics and Operations in Cheshire. On the night of robbery, surveillance footage shows Woods entering the facility at 5:12 p.m. and leaving 14 minutes later, the warrant states. However, a card given to employees doesn’t record him leaving.
The warrant states Woods gave the card to another employee and asked him to scan it for him. The warrant states Woods told the other employee, who didn’t scan the card because he was concerned about being fired, that something came up but he didn’t explain why he had to leave.
Also, Woods’ cellphone utilized a cellphone tower about 1,100 feet away from the dealership between 5:34 p.m. and 5:55 p.m. the night of the robbery, the warrant states.
Police attempted to interview Woods on Dec. 7 when he was in custody at the New Haven Correctional Center for an unrelated probation violation charge, but he refused to be interviewed and said he told Battle’s family everything he knows about the incident, the warrant states.
Police found a .40 caliber Ruger under a pile of leaves near where Battle’s body was discovered. The gun, which wasn’t loaded, was reported stolen from Waterbury on Dec. 1.
The owner of the gun, who is a relative of Battle, told police he kept the gun in his car when it wasn’t on him. He told police Battle randomly showed up at his house at about 6 p.m. on Nov. 30, the warrant states. The man told police Battle was acting strange. He said he believed his car was unlocked and Battle knew he kept the gun in his car, but he didn’t see Battle take the gun, according to the warrant.
It’s unclear exactly what motivated the robbery attempt. The owner of the dealership told police he didn’t recall the men make any demands or ask for money, and he said he didn’t know who they were or why they tried to rob the dealership, according to the warrant. People interviewed during the investigation told police Battle and Woods went to the dealership to get $10,000 that was owed to Battle, the warrant states.
The incident remains under investigation.
Woods has a lengthy record that includes convictions for criminal contempt of court, third-degree assault, possession of narcotics, failure to appear and violation of probation. He was arraigned in Waterbury Superior Court on Tuesday and held on a $1 million bond. He is scheduled to appear in court again on Feb. 6.