Alleged Mugger Nabbed After Fateful Bus Encounter

A rookie cop dialed a woman’s cell phone to follow up on a mugging attempt—only to reach her on a city bus as she re-encountered her attacker.

The episode occurred Tuesday evening; it ended in an arrest.

Here’s what happened, according to police spokesman Officer David Hartman (with his exact words in quotation marks):

A 58-year-old wheelchair-bound woman told police around 6:50 p.m. that she encountered a man claiming to be a cop on Whalley Avenue in Amity. He asked if she needed help; she said no and pressed on.

“As she passed beneath the Merritt Parkway overpass, the same man confronted her. She said he grabbed her wheelchair by the handles and pulled her backward, balancing her on its rear wheels. She said he told her he would knock her down if she didn’t hand over all her money. She said she began swinging at the assailant with her umbrella. Her screams alerted a nearby man pushing a carriage, who yelled at the man to leave her alone. The would-be robber took off running. The robbery had been thwarted and the victim hadn’t been physically harmed,” Hartman reported.

As cops looked for the mugger, a rookie cop doing his field training in the Westville/West Hills district, Freddy Salmeron, was in the Valley Street substation “typing up the report. He phoned the victim on her cell phone in order to confirm some information. He reported she sounded nervous and asked if she was alright. She said she was on a CT Transit bus heading inbound on Whalley Avenue and was afraid to get off at her stop because the man who’d attacked her had boarded the same bus at a subsequent stop. She said she was on bus number
468 and they were nearing the intersection at Sherman Avenue.”

Salmeron and the cop who’s training him, Dwight Calderon, “raced down Whalley Avenue and intercepted the bus. The perpetrator was no longer on board. The victim hadn’t seen him get off, but the bus driver, after being given the perpetrator’s description, remembered he’d dropped off a similarly described man a few blocks earlier at the Ella T. Grasso Boulevard.

“The officers headed there and began searching.”

They stopped a 41-year-old suspect, whom the woman subsequently identified as her attacker. The suspect first told cops he had not been in the area of Whalley (by Walgreens and the Five Guys burger joint) when the woman was originally harassed. Video surveillance from area retail establishments did place him at the scene.

The suspect changed his story, telling Officer Salmeron,  “I only asked that lady for a cigarette.” Police arrested the man and charged him with criminal attempt to commit robbery in the third degree, second-degree reckless endangerment, second-degree criminal attempt to commit assault, and second-degree threatening.

Heavy-Duty Diaper Find: Police found crack on a 31-year-old man whom they stopped on Washington Avenue at 8:16 p.m. because the Dodge Durango he was driving had a broken license-plate light.

It turned out he also was driving with a suspended license; he was on parole for a narcotics conviction.

Officers searched the Durango—and found an unusually heavy diaper “in a seat-back pouch,” according to Hartman. The weight, it turned out, came from a Kel-Tec P3AT .380 caliber handgun concealed inside it, a gun that had been reported lost. Police arrested the man on various narcotics, weapons and motor vehicle charges.

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