The day before Samuel See died in police lock-up, cops went not once, but twice, to his house, according to newly released documents.
Those two visits occurred 14 hours apart on Nov. 23, 2013. The fact of the earlier visit—and new information on why police arrested See (pictured), a Yale assistant professor—emerge from police reports written the day of the incidents.
The city released the two reports to the Independent this week in response to a Freedom of Information Act request.
They offer a brief new prelude chapter to the lock-up death mystery, details about a physical struggle between See and police, and information relevant to one of the case’s remaining unanswered questions: Did police need to arrest Samuel See?
The First Visit
At the time of the incidents, See had been experiencing severe emotional problems; he was on an unplanned leave from his job as an assistant English professor at Yale. He and his husband, Sunder Ganglani, had been having continual problems. Police had been to their home “at least 15 times” in the past 18 months to respond to medical emergencies and domestic disputes, according to a law-enforcement officer familiar with the case. After a September arrest, a judge issued protective orders against both See and Ganglani. They were not to have any contact with each other.
The first report from Nov. 23, written by Officer Christopher Elliott, states that he went to See’s second-floor apartment at 324 St. John St. in the Wooster Square neighborhood at 3:34 a.m. Elliott wrote that police had a “report of someone needing medical attention.”
“Said complainant was identified as Mr. Sam See, who stated that his husband, Sunder Ganglani, needed medical evaluation because he was seeing things. Sunder appeared very alert and oriented while on scene,” Elliott wrote.
“AMR [ambulance] staff were called to scene. Sunder appeared alert and oriented to them. However, it was Sam who had the history of mental illness, but also appeared alert and oriented. Sam signed a refusal [of medical treatment] with AMR.
“Sam stated that he did not feel safe with Sunder staying at the residence, so Sunder agreed to leave and go elsewhere for the night while I was still on scene. No one was physically harmed or threatened. No further police action was taken.”
The report does not state whether police knew that a judge had prohibited See and Ganglani from contacting each other.
But contact continued later that very same day of Nov. 23. And police returned to the apartment a second time.
The Second Visit
An initial official police summary of that second visit (released four days after See died, after repeated requests by the Independent) stated that officers returned to See’s apartment at 5:15 p.m. in response to a call from his sister. She reported that See’s husband, Ganglani, was in the apartment and she feared someone might get hurt.
Police said they arrested Ganglani at the scene for violating a protective order. Then they arrested See for violating a protective order. Police at the time did not explain how being present in his own home violated the order.
See yelled at the cops and fought them for arresting him, and threatened to kill one of the officers, police said. (The scuffle itself was not detailed.) See suffered a cut above his eye during a scuffle with the officers attempting to handcuff him, police said. See was taken to Yale-New Haven Hospital, then released to police custody that same night. He went to the police lock-up at 1 Union Ave., where one of the state marshals responsible for running the facility found him dead in his cell the following morning at 6 during a routine check.
Some six weeks later, on Jan. 6, Chief State Medical Examiner James Gill issued an official answer to the question of how See died: “acute methamphetamine and amphetamine intoxication with recent miocardial infarct.” Translation: He took amphetamines. That caused him to have a heart attack that caused damage that eventually killed him. He may have taken the drug days or longer before his death, according to Gill.
But what about the arrest? In what way did See violate a protective order?
Decades of domestic violence law and training have led to the rule that cops should not automatically arrest both parties to a dispute—even when they have protective orders—just because they’re both present, according to Karen Jarmoc, executive director of the Connecticut Coalition against Domestic Violence.
It turns out, at least according to the report’s version of what Ganglani told police, that See had called Ganglani to come to the apartment to retrieve belongings.
Making a phone call like that would have violated a no-contact protective order, said Jarmoc, who was not familiar with the specifics of the See case. “If you’re initiating contact, you are violating the order. That’s a crime.” (A judge issues a protective order on his or her own initiative, as opposed to a restraining order, which is granted at the request of a person appearing before a judge.)
Officer Vincent DeLeo wrote the report the night of See’s arrest on charges of violating a protective order, interfering with a cop, and threatening.
“On November 23, 2013 at approximately 1715 hours I was dispatched to 324 St. John Street 2nd Flr. for the report of a domestic disturbance. Dispatch informed me that it was a third party complainant reporting that her brother was in a domestic dispute with his husband and that there was a protective order in place. Officers D[an] Hartnett and M[ichael] Fumiatti also responded to the scene,” DeLeo wrote.
“Upon our arrival, Officer Fumiatti and I spoke with a white male, later identified as Sunder Ganglani. Sunder told Officer Fumiatti and I that he was called by his husband, later identified as Samuel See. Samuel told him to come to their apartment (324 St. John St. 2nd Flr.) to retrieve his belongings. [Sunder] said he went to the apartment knowing that there was a protective order in place but believed it would not be a problem. Sunder said he was there for approximately two and a half hours before police were called by Samuel’s sister. I verified with NHPD IS6 that there was a protective order where Samuel is a protected party against Sunder. The protective order stipulates that Sunder cannot have any contact with Samuel. ...”
So officers handcuffed Ganglani and placed him in the back seat of Fumiatti’s cruiser, according to the report. (DeLeo, in an apparent typo, wrote that See had been the first arrestee. But then the report proceeds to describes See’s subsequent arrest.)
“Officer Hartnett and I spoke with Samuel See,” DeLeo continued. “Samuel told us that he wanted Sunder removed from their home and that Sunder was in violation of his protective order. Samuel said Sunder had been at their apartment (324 St. John St. 2nd Flr.) for approximately two and a half hours. Samuel did not provide an answer in regards to why so much time had passed before police were called. A records check via NHPD IS6 revealed that another protective order was in place in which Sunder was a protected party against Samuel. This protective order stipulates that Samuel cannot have any contact with Sunder.
“Samuel said he was aware of this protective order but believed that Sunder was the only person in violation. As I began to place Samuel in custody he became enraged,” DeLeo continued. “He began to yell that it was his house and he shouldn’t be the one getting arrested. As I placed Samuel in handcuffs he began to struggle and actively resist me. I was able to secure Samuel in handcuffs. Samuel continued to attempt to break free of my grasp. Officer Hartnett and I attempted to gain control of Samuel and we fell to the bed directly behind Samuel. As Officer Hartnett and I brought Samuel up from the bed he continued to struggle with us. As we continued to gain control of Samuel we fell forward into the wall.
“Samuel’s head hit the wall in front of us. As a result, Samuel suffered a laceration above his left eye. As Officer Hartnett and I escorted Samuel to my police cruiser he continued to struggle and pull away from us. Samuel looked at Officer Hartnett and said to him, ‘I will kill you’ ‘I will destroy you.’ Samuel was then detained in my police cruiser.
“Officer Hartnett went with Sunder and secured their apartment. ... I called for an ambulance to provide medical attention to Samuel. AMR personnel arrived on scene and determined that Samuel would need to go to the hospital for stitches.”
There the official account ends.
Police and the state Judicial Branch have subsequently launched internal investigations, which are not expected to find wrongdoing on the part of cops or marshals.
Family’s Lawyer Holds Off On Judgment
New Haven David Rosen has been reviewing reports about the incident on behalf of See’s family. He filed a deposition notice in probate court to retrieve records pertaining to See’s death. At this point the family has not made a decision about whether to pursue legal action, Rosen said Thursday.
Rosen did not offer any criticisms of official handling of the incident.
“At this point what we’re doing is trying to find out whatever can be found out about what happened and why,” he said. “Legal judgments are for the future.”
See’s sister, Kelly Flanagan, told the Yale Daily News last month that the family is considering a wrongful-death suit.
Flanagan was the one who called police for help the night they arrested See. She was calling police from out of town, according to a law-enforcement officer familiar with the case. Flanagan lives in California; it’s unclear who had originally called her about problems in the apartment that evening. The officer said she reported that Ganglani, not her brother, had originally called her in fear about what was happening in the apartment; that could not be confirmed. (Flanagan has not responded to requests from the Independent for comment.)
“I called the police for help for Sam,” Flanagan (pictured above) told the crowd at a Dec. 10 protest rally outside the police station. “Now he’s dead.”