“Speedy” Makes The Grab

by Paul Bass | October 6, 2009 12:00 PM | | Comments (15)

DSCN5539.JPG(Updated) It was a sleepy graveyard shift for Paul Finch — until he spotted a wanted man racing across the Green.

A year and a half into his tenure as a city cop, Finch is still getting used to staying alert during those end-of-shift hours on the overnight C squad. It was approaching 4 a.m. Monday when Finch, who’s 26, was patrolling Dixwell and Henry in his cruiser. Time was dragging.

Most nights by that time, Finch said, “crime ends. People finally go to sleep.”

Then came a call: A woman reported that an armed man on a bicycle was following her around downtown streets. She felt threatened.

Finch (pictured) drove toward the Green. Along the way he listened to updates: The man was black, thin. Cops were chasing him toward the Green.

At Elm and Temple, Finch glanced toward the flagpole — and saw the suspect. He steered onto Temple, ditched the car across from the Center church, and sprung out after the man.

The man was running fast. Finch can run fast, too. The other kids at sports camp nicknamed him “Speedy” when he was growing up in Springfield, Mass. He ran the 100-meter sprint at High School of Science and Technology. At 26, he stays in shape.

Finch had had to sprint only once before since becoming a New Haven cop. During a motor vehicle stop, a man bolted from what turned out to be a stolen car. “I knew which way he went. But he was quick. And I didn’t know the area well yet,” Finch recalled. The guy got away.

This time, on the Green before dawn Monday, Finch gained on the suspect in no time as the chase proceeded behind the Center Church. Another officer was headed toward them from Elm Street. The suspect stumbled, fell on the grass. Finch was on him immediately.

“I grabbed his hands. That’s the most important thing — know where hands are at all times,” Finch, who’s 26, recalled later Monday during a conversation back on the Green.

Finch turned the suspect on his stomach as another officer, David Stratton, put on handcuffs. It was a slow night; some 10 officers had been out looking for the suspect.

“Why are you running?” Finch asked the man.

He said he was scared.

“It’s not good to run from the police,” Finch told him. “It makes us nervous. It makes our job even harder.”

The man, who’s 20, didn’t have a gun on him when Finch caught up with him. Officer Lars Vallin arrested the man on charges of breach of peace and interfering with an officer.

Finch said his track background came in handy in catching up to the suspect. “It was a sprint, not a long run. He was quick.”

A University of New Haven grad who majored in criminal justice, Finch hopes to become a detective one day. Meanwhile he’s putting his time in on patrol — with the help of a pair of fleet feet.

Update (Thursday 3:24 p.m.): Police spokesman Officer Joe Avery filled in more details of the story Thursday.

He said the woman who called the cops said she had encountered the man on a downtown street. He was urinating. He started following her, with his bicycle. At one point he reached for his pants as though reaching for a handgun, then told her, “Do you want this easy, or hard?”

He said it twice. “I just want to go home,” she said, and started fleeing. She called the cops.

When officers caught up with a man fitting the description, he did have a bike with him, according to the police report. He dropped the bike and started running. Police chased him, toward the Green. That’s when Officer Finch, who was driving on Elm Street, spotted him, got out of his car, and caught up with him.

The woman who originally called the cops subsequently identified the man as the person who had followed and threatened her.

The man did not have a gun.

Read other installments in the Independent’s “Cop of the Week” series:

Shafiq Abdussabur
Det. Scott Branfuhr
Dennis Burgh
Sydney Collier
David Coppola
Joe Dease
Brian Donnelly
Anthony Duff
Bertram Etienne
Jeffrey Fletcher
Renee Forte
William Gargone & Mike Torre
Jon Haddad & Daniela Rodriguez
Dan Hartnett
Ray Hassett
Robin Higgins
Ronnell Higgins
Racheal Inconiglios
Hilda Kilpatrick
Anthony Maio
Steve McMorris
Stephanie Redding
Tony Reyes
Luis & David Rivera
Salvador Rodriguez
Brett Runlett
David Runlett
Marcus Tavares
Martin Tchakirides
Stephan Torquati
Kelly Turner
John Velleca
Alan Wenk
Michael Wuchek
David Zaweski

(To suggest an officer to be featured, contact us here.)

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Posted by: RAY WILLIS | October 6, 2009 1:37 PM

I don't get it. The guy had been on a bike, what happened to the bike? He was reported armed, but this wasn't the case? So, basically, it sounds like this "hero-cop" tackled a guy on the green with no weapon who had committed no crime?

Posted by: Edward Anderson | October 6, 2009 1:42 PM

Paul, so glad the NHI is doing this series.

New Haven's men in blue don't get nearly enough credit for all the great things they do to keep us safe!

Posted by: Edward_H | October 6, 2009 4:06 PM

Was something left out of this article? Was the guy who was arrested identified as the guy on the bike? Did he ditch the weapon and the bike to run on foot? Did they recover the bike or weapon? Did the woman caller positively ID the guy they arrested? I am all for giving a cop credit when credit is due but a least from the information given in the article they seem to have grabbed the wrong guy and threw on the usual B.S charges of interfering and Breach of Peace to cover their asses.

Do you know if the guy who was arrested had any prior convictions of anything? In light of the man neither being on a bike nor in possession of a weapon when arrested did you even attempt to find out his side of the story? What was he doing Downtown that time of the morning? Was he going to from work?

Paul the Cop of the Week series is a great idea, but I think in this instance you maybe should have asked a few more questions before printing this article.

Posted by: imjust saying | October 6, 2009 4:15 PM

This story makes no sense. Finch didn't even arrest him? This story has alot of holes in it and does not appear to be investigated well. I expect more from you Paul.

Posted by: Ellis Copeland | October 6, 2009 4:16 PM

Let me get this straight, it is now illegal in New Haven to be in public and doing nothing, have no weapon, but run from cops? Given that cops in CT routinely execute people for no reason running is a reasonable response. I'm with Ray, where's the gun? Where's the bike? Sounds to me like they "nailed" the wrong guy.

Posted by: terrapin | October 6, 2009 7:11 PM

Interfering with an officer? It sounds like he was trying to do anything BUT interfere with an officer.

Nice job, Sppedy, but you should have helped this guy up, maybe checked his ID, and sent him on his way. These charges sound like complete nonsense.

Posted by: Um ok? | October 6, 2009 11:29 PM

How is this cop of the week material...he got in a chase, caught the guy.. He's a police officer, he is trained to catch fleeing people. Nothing here out of the ordinary. Sad times when good jobs get thrown to the side for a routine foot chase. How bout the cops in the hill or fair haven catching real felons with guns??? great job catching the guy, but i think for a series like this officers should recieve praise for incredible tasks, not routine arrests

[Bass responds: Thanks for the feedback! Here's our thinking on the series: We don't see it as an either-or proposition; we're trying to highlight good work that cops do on the beat and introduce readers to who these cops are. Sometimes that work is on a major case or involves heroism; other times it's just solid work of the kind cops do every day. We think both kinds of work are important and worth highlighting.

[PS: All readers should feel free to suggest cops of the week for us. We're looking for specific actions police have taken on specific cases. Contact us at editor@newhavenindependent.org .]

Posted by: Rocco | October 7, 2009 7:14 AM

Good job Speedy! We need more like you.

Posted by: streever | October 7, 2009 10:56 AM

Was any follow up done on the man?

If he is actually biking around and menacing people with guns/weapons I am disappointed that this is all the NHPD did.

I think this "Cop of the Week" feature is great when it features things which are truly excellent: while I'm impressed with this officers running ability & sincerity (he honestly sounds like a great guy) I'm not at all impressed with the story.

I was assaulted by an officer who had been featured on Cop of the Week (for talking to a young kid). The officer's "recognition" was brought up as a point against me. (How you can assault a citizen--literally throttle them in the middle of the road and hit them and then not charge them with anything and get away with it is behind me--seems like an open and shut case of police brutality but what do I know? He was a COP OF THE WEEK!)

If the NHI is going to praise officers for exemplary work, that's excellent, but I definitely expect the individual cases to be investigated.

No gun, no bike, no evidence whatsoever recovered, and this guy charged with "interference"?

Interfering with police is a charge I've been threatened with. I called the NHPD because I saw a young woman so drunk/drugged that she couldn't stand up, and was crawling across the green, in the dark, crying at midnight.

I asked her if she needed help and, obviously, terrified her. What if she called the police on me? Could they tackle me then not charge me?

As it was, I was the one who called the police, worried about her safety.

Guess what happened when the cops showed up? I introduced myself and they threatened to arrest me for interference, then proceded to cuff her, screaming at her, while shoving her back and forth. She didn't resist--just kept crying to herself--she was non-responsive and clearly in some distress.

They slammed her head on the roof of their cruiser while continuing to scream at me to get out of there, then drove her off.

Interfering with Police is frequently a BS charge, slapped on someone for no apparent reason but they were in the wrong place at the wrong time.

If the police don't find a gun/bike and can't link this guy to the initial complaint, then all they did was tackle some guy and then charge him with a BS charge.


The past couple cops of the week have showcased really excellent police wo do thorough work. This one falls a bit flat for me.

Posted by: Ellis Copeland | October 7, 2009 6:12 PM

Unless i have Streever confused with someone else I thought he/she was usually in favor of police brutality. Be that as it may, more people with stories like Streever's need to publicize them and pursue legal redress. It is the presense of cops that creates crime, not vice versa. They must be stopped if we hope to regain our republic as envisioned by the founders

Posted by: Sue Turi | October 7, 2009 7:51 PM

This message is for Paul Bass. I'm new to using this site and I don't know how to work it yet so I'm putting this comment here even though it's not related to the above article.

Paul, I wanted to thank you for the article about Irv Weinstein that I "happened onto" as I read throught stories about the West River neighborhood to which I moved last November due to financial necessity. Your story about Irv beautifully captured his work and his spirit. What to me is "providential" is that I am a 62-year old female amateur (but good) singer who has for many years sung in choirs or as a song leader or soloist in churches I attended as well as in variety shows or sing-alongs...many of them in the Greater New Haven area. I have also served people all my life, like Irv, and continue to serve in small ways at Berger Apartments, too. Here's the "coolest" thing. Guess what apartment I was assigned when I moved in to Berger Apts. and where I still live?? ...Irv Weinstein's former apartment!!! His shoes seem big to fill, but I'll do my best. You'll be hearing from me again, too. In fact, I just forwarded a message through NHI to Melinda Tuhus to discuss having her write a potentially timely article that relates to how health reforms, CT budget changes and more are negatively affecting many who live in New Haven and beyond. Sue Turi

Posted by: jjlowe332 | October 7, 2009 11:50 PM

Okay so what the point of the story??? A rookie trying to give pointers??? Chased one guy who got away... lol.. 100 meter sprint!!! Crime slows after 4 a.m. ??? Gee write something more appealing and let this officer try to figure out how to fight crime because he hasn't done anything on this incident. JOKE!!! This arrest will be dismissed.

Posted by: Doriss Day | October 8, 2009 8:14 PM

Thanks Streever, Copeland and Sue Turi for your inputs. I can relate to all three of you.

Posted by: Edward_H | October 9, 2009 8:56 AM

Paul Bass

Thanks for the update and follow up on this story. I am sure we all appriciate it.

Posted by: selam | October 9, 2009 7:07 PM

Hey, I'm just glad time was dragging and there was no crime to report...at least in Speedy's patrol area..

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