Blood Mystery Haunted Them All Week

Paul Bass PhotoBlood covered the counters. It covered the floor. It covered the table.

And it covered Officers Jeremie Elliott and Scott Shumway. Once they finished saving a victim’s life, they began waiting ... and waiting ... to learn their own fates.

They waited the better part of a week to learn whether the blood that got all over their uniforms and skin contained HIV. And whether it had infected them.

Meanwhile, they returned to their beat walking the Newhallville neighborhood. They kept their mind on the job; they found a hidden .40-caliber pistol that had been used in a shooting.

Call it a bloody good week of police work. Or a bloody mess of a week of police work.

Or both.

Whatever you call it, Elliott and Shumway have a story to tell. It begins around 6 p.m. the Sunday before last.

Flesh Eaten

The two partners, both 30 years old, both products of the U.S. Army National Guard (Elliott, pictured at left in photo, a veteran of three tours in Iraq, still belongs), were at Winchester and Starr streets. They began walking that area full-time as the first wave of neighborhood foot patrols in New Haven’s renewed community policing strategy.

On that Sunday, they were about to head to a call from an ambulance crew needing help with a disturbed man talking to himself. Then a different call came over the police radio reporting a home invasion on Butler Street. The attacker was in a second-floor apartment attacking the husband of a woman who had called the cops. The dispatcher could hear the fight taking place.

Shumway (at right in above photo) and Elliott didn’t have to discuss which scene to hit. They started running the five blocks to the Butler Street house. They vaulted over a fence, headed to the back door, where they saw people running down the steps and outside.

“He’s inside! He’s inside! He’s attacking him!” they told the officers, who heard noise upstairs.

Elliott and Shumway made their way quietly, deliberately up the stairs to the second floor, hoping not to alert the attacker to their presence.

The back door was open, partially ripped off its hinges. The attacker had apparently beaten it down to get inside.

The officers prepared to enter the apartment—swiftly—while also scanning the premises. They immediately spotted the “massive amount of blood” on the walls and all over the kitchen, and all over the two men on the ground: the 29-year-old attacker on top of the helpless 58-year-old man he was pounding.

The attack was taking place in a confined corner of the kitchen, a space bounded by a table, a counter, and a wall.

Before diving in, the officers needed to know who was who.

“Who’s your husband?” Elliott called to the wife standing out in the hallways. (“You have to be pretty sure who’s the bad guy in case he comes after you,” he later explained.)

“My husband’s on the bottom!” she responded.

The officers announced themselves to the attacker. “Stop!” they commanded.

They converged on the attacker. Elliott had his gun drawn. That meant he would serve as “the lethal cover” as Shumway would grab the attacker; the partners, used to working together, didn’t need to discuss it.

Shumway reached for the attacker, who turned around and swung at him. Shumway stepped back, reached in his belt for his pepper spray. He sprayed the man’s face.

“It didn’t faze him.” The man went right back to pounding the bloodied older man.

Next Shumway reached in his belt for his baton.

“I gave him one shot over the upper back. He gave me a look like I’m a mosquito flying around him. I was just a nuisance. It was one of the scariest looks I ever got from someone.”

But for a split second the attacker did raise his hands. That gave the officers a momentary opening; they both dived in and pulled him off the victim.

Elliott pulled the victim out, brought him to his feet, then brought him to the wife in a back room.

Meanwhile Shumway grabbed the attacker’s leg, pulled it up and threw him to the ground.

At which point “he mule-kicks me in the gut.”

Shumway still had a hand on the attacker’s leg. He hit his inner thigh with the baton. That stalled him enough for Shumway and Elliott to get on top of him and wrestle him into handcuffs, at which point back-up officers arrived.

The attacker was arrested on various charges including assault. He was seen spitting out hunks of flesh he had bitten off his victim, whom he didn’t know. (He thought, mistakenly, that his name was George.) “There was no stopping this guy,” Newhallville District Manager Lt. Kenny Howell, Elliott’s and Shumway’s supervisor, said later. He praised the officers for not resorting to deadly force, even though it might have been justified. It turned out that the same attacker had, three weeks earlier, beaten someone with a pipe. Police said he was high at the time of the Butler Street apartment attack, that he didn’t know the man he was beating, that he was wildly out of control.

“It’s our duty to protect life, whether you’re a victim or a perpetrator” Shumway would reflect later. “Yes, he was wrong. But if we were able to stop him without taking his life, that’s important.”

After officers took the attacker away from the Butler Street apartment, Elliott and Shumway continued gathering information. Until a supervisor at the scene pointed out the obvious: They were bathed in blood. Up to their armpits. All over their uniforms. On their faces and arms.

They needed to get to the hospital.

Cocktail Hour

Thus, at the Hospital of St. Raphael, commenced a “nerve-wracking 24 hours,” as Elliot put it.

They got cleaned up. The department had to throw away their uniforms. The attacker’s and victim’s blood were being tested for HIV; the officers wouldn’t learn preliminary results for a day.

They received a cocktail to fight HIV just in case they had contracted it. Then they went home to wait to learn whether that had in fact happened.

“What am I going to do if I am sick?” Elliott wondered. “How will my family handle it? My children: What’s going to happen to them?”

The next day they reported to occupational therapy. They learned that the preliminary blood results were negative for HIV or other contagious diseases. They kept taking the medicine for three days, just in case the final results—due several days later—were different. It made their stomachs sick.

But it didn’t keep them off the beat. Handed new uniforms, they reported to work Tuesday, and each day after that.

Neighbor Points The Way

On Thursday, they still hadn’t heard final results. As soon as they arrived to work at 3 p.m., they had another matter to occupy their attention: A reported spray of gunfire that occurred at Lilac Street 10 minutes earlier.

Elliott and Shumway headed to the scene. The health worries disappeared from their minds. “When I put this uniform on,” said Elliott, “anything that was happening prior to that day, I’m not thinking about. It’s a new day.”

They found six .40-caliber shell casings at the scene. They returned to 1 Union Ave. to log them into evidence, then left to return to the beat to start collecting information.

First they stopped at Butler Street. The victim of Sunday’s beating had returned home. He was going to be OK.

“Thank you for saving my life,” the man told them. More than once.

Back on the walking beat, they encountered a woman they had gotten to know in their first months on foot patrol, during which they had made a point of stopping on people’s porches and starting conversations. She told them she had heard the gunshots earlier. She had seen a man run into a backyard and “throw something.” She subsequently saw the man return to “cover it,” then return later yet again to retrieve it.

The officers checked the spot. The gun was gone. But the woman identified the hiding spot: underneath a parked car.

Two hours later, just after 10 p.m., another call came in of gunshots. Same spot. Out on Lilac Street. Elliott and Shumway ran over from Winchester and Starr.

While other officers investigated the scene out on the street, Elliott and Shumway ran to the back of the house. They hoped to find the shooter fleeing there. No luck. But they had luck when they went straight to the parked car. They fund the gun there, a .40-caliber semi-automatic, in the same hiding spot.

Which means “one less gun somebody can use against a citizen or police,” Elliott said. And, Shumway added, more proof that when citizens “talk to us, it does produce results.”

Starting the next day, Friday, three more gunfire incidents, including two shootings, would take place nearby within three days. Police believe the incidents are linked; they’d made one arrest as of mid-Tuesday, with another suspect in their sights. (Read about that here.)

Elliott and Shumway were off that Friday, but did have an occupational therapy appointment where they learned the final results of the tests on the blood that had covered them at the week’s outset. The tests were negative. Danger averted.

Relieved, they started text-messaging family, friends, everyone who had worried about them, as another week on the beat—bloody or not—loomed.


Related stories on new walking-beat cops:

That Package Was In Suspicious Hands (East Rock)
On New Turf, Officer Tyson Gathers Intel (Cedar Hill)
“Ghost” Trail Leads To Dirt Bikers (West River)
Fair Haven’s Walking Cops Follow Drug Trail
Dear Abby—Er, Officer Mark (The Hill)
Walking Cops Check In On The Champ (Dixwell)
The People Talk, The Cops Walk
Wynne & Benedetto Start Walking The Beat (Downtown)

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

Shafiq Abdussabur
Craig Alston & Billy White Jr.
James Baker
Lloyd Barrett
Maneet Bhagtana
Sheree Biros
Paul Bicki
Scott Branfuhr
Dennis Burgh
Rob Clark & Joe Roberts
Sydney Collier
Carlos Conceicao and Josh Kyle
David Coppola
Roy Davis
Joe Dease
Milton DeJesus
Brian Donnelly
Anthony Duff
Robert DuPont
Bertram Etienne
Martin Feliciano & Lou DeCrescenzo
Paul Finch
Jeffrey Fletcher
Renee Forte
Marco Francia
William Gargone
William Gargone & Mike Torre
Derek Gartner
Jon Haddad & Daniela Rodriguez
Dan Hartnett
Ray Hassett
Robert Hayden
Robin Higgins
Ronnell Higgins
William Hurley & Eddie Morrone
Racheal Inconiglios
Juan Ingles
Paul Kenney
Hilda Kilpatrick
Herb Johnson
John Kaczor & Alex Morgillo
Peter Krause
Peter Krause (2)
Amanda Leyda
Rob Levy
Anthony Maio
Steve McMorris
Juan Monzon
Chris Perrone
Ron Perry
Joe Pettola
Diego Quintero and Elvin Rivera
Stephanie Redding
Tony Reyes
David Rivera
Luis & David Rivera
Luis Rivera (2)
Salvador Rodriguez
Brett Runlett
David Runlett
Marcus Tavares
Martin Tchakirides
Stephan Torquati
Gene Trotman Jr.
Kelly Turner
Lars Vallin (& Xander)
John Velleca
Holly Wasilewski
Alan Wenk
Stephanija VanWilgen
Michael Wuchek
David Zannelli
David Zaweski


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posted by: HhE on July 18, 2012  12:26pm

You guys do us proud.  We cannot thank you enough.

posted by: Curious on July 18, 2012  2:14pm

***He was seen spitting out hunks of flesh he had bitten off his victim, whom he didn’t know. (He thought, mistakenly, that his name was George.) “There was no stopping this guy,” Newhallville District Manager Lt. Kenny Howell, Elliott’s and Shumway’s supervisor, said later. ***

Do we have our very first bath salts attack right here in New Haven?

posted by: streever on July 18, 2012  2:47pm

The well-publicized case of the man who attacked the homeless man and was shot turned out to be poorly reported—he did not have bath salts in his system, only marijuana.

“The laboratory has tested for but not detected any other street drugs, alcohol or prescription drugs, or any adulterants found in street drugs. This includes cocaine, LSD, amphetamines (Extasy, Meth and others), phencyclidine (PCP or Angel Dust), heroin, oxycodone, Xanax, synthetic marijuana (Spice), and many other similar compounds.”

posted by: Gretchen Pritchard on July 18, 2012  6:56pm

OK, so if not bath salts, what is this with the flesh-eating violent crimes?  Scary.

Nice work, guys.  Takes courage and training.  Not to mention endurance, doing all that stuff in 90-degree heat all day long.

Community policing is so OBVIOUSLY the way to go, it does make you wonder why it was abandoned till recently.