Police ID dead assailant, accomplice still at large

Torrance Battle

PROSPECT — State police have identified the assailant shot and killed during an attempted robbery Friday night at Route 69 Auto Sales and Services, as Torrance Battle, 44, of Waterbury.

Meanwhile, state police on Sunday were still on the hunt for Battle’s accomplice.

Battle was one of two masked men, armed with handguns, who state police said barged into the business at 69 Waterbury Road through its back door at 6:49 p.m. Friday, 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, opened fire at the two masked men. The customer was licensed to legally own and carry the gun, according to police.

When the customer started firing, Battle and his unidentified accomplice fled out the back of the business, according to police. Police said Battle was struck several times. He was found nearby the dealership, and paramedics pronounced him dead at the scene, police said.

Police have not named the customer or said what kind of gun he was carrying.

Police previously withheld naming Battle as the deceased, pending the completion of an autopsy that was performed on Saturday.

Battle had a long rap sheet that included a non-fatal shooting, conspiracy to commit murder and sexual assault on a high school student.

State judicial records show Battle was out on probation after having been incarcerated for his role in a murder-for-hire plot in 2002 to kill Derek Hopson, a Middletown psychologist who was also the stepfather to a former National Basketball Association player. That plot was orchestrated by Ernest Garlington and involved Hopson being pepper sprayed, clubbed and shot at. Garlington himself was later convicted of multiple charges and is serving a 33-year prison sentence.

In a separate incident, Battle shot a man in the leg with a handgun he was not legally allowed to possess during a street argument over money. Battle was convicted of discharging a firearm, criminal possession and failing to register as a sex offender.

More than a decade earlier, a jury found Battle guilty of raping a 17-year-old girl on the grounds of Kennedy High School, a crime for which he received a five-year prison sentence and served five years of probation.

Police are still searching for the second suspect and have not provided details on the assailant.

The assault victims were treated at Saint Mary’s Hospital for non-life threatening injuries, police said.

The dealership has reopened since the incident.

On Saturday, business continued as usual, though one person working there, wearing a large bandage over his right eye, said the situation could have been much worse.

The company’s attorney, Ioannis Kalodis, said in a statement Saturday that those involved are shaken by the incident.

“At Route 69 Auto Sales and Service we pride ourselves on being a good business and responsible member of this community,” the statement said. “We were shocked by the events of Friday night when our business, employees and customers fell victim to a senseless act of violence.

“We are thankful for the heroic actions of our customer and are forever grateful for his act of bravery,” it said. “We are continuing to cooperate with the police investigation and are thankful for the work the Connecticut State Police are doing. Given the ongoing nature of this investigation, we do not believe it is appropriate to comment further at this time.”

On Friday night, police urged area businesses and homeowners to lock their doors and be on alert for anyone suspicious. A state police K-9 team scoured the neighborhood Friday night.

The Connecticut State Police Central District Major Crime Squad is continuing to investigate the incident.