A man attacked cops who ran to stop him from jumping off the Grand Avenue Bridge. They took the punches — and saved his life.
The incident occurred earlier this week. It began with the pursuit of a suspicious driver, then took an unexpected turn.
Police spokesman Officer David Hartman describes the drama in the following release:
Just before noon [Monday], Officer Jocelyn Lavandier was patrolling around Clifton Street. Cops had been giving added attention to that area after several car break-in had occurred. Officer Lavandier spotted a silver Honda at the corner at Eastern Street. There was someone inside.
The man in the car eyed the police car, placed the hood from his sweatshirt over his head and lowered himself in his seat. The officer kept an eye on the car. It was still there an hour later. She ran the plate. It was registered to a woman who lived in West Haven.
Officer Paul Vitale arrived and the two approached the car. The operator cracked the window and held his foot on the brake. When asked to turn off the engine, he instead, took off. The chase was on and was heading into East Haven. The officers stopped pursuing the car.
The car’s owner had been in a recent crash and Officer Francisco Ortiz had her cell phone number. Officer Lavandier phoned the woman. She was willing to come to headquarters to speak with her. The woman said it was her husband operating the car. He suffers from schizophrenia, is bipolar and off his medications.
At 2:11 p.m., Officer Lavandier received an hysterical call from the woman. She said while en route to meet her, she’d spotted her car, unoccupied, at Grand Avenue and Front Street. Then she spotted her husband pacing back and forth on the bridge. The woman yelled, “He`s going to jump off the bridge. He`s jumped off that bridge before”!
Officer Lavandier radioed the information to the dispatcher. Officer Matthew Stevens and Lieutenant David Zannelli heard the call and raced toward the swing bridge that connects Fair Haven to Fair Haven Heights over the Quinnipiac River. They arrived and spotted the man. He was yelling at them. A stream of emphatic expletives were directed toward the cops at the bridge. “… shoot me, shoot me”, he yelled before pulling a dark object and pointing it at them as if it were a gun. Officer Stevens drew his weapon and ordered the man to drop what was in his hand. The man was running to the edge. Stevens saw the object the man was wielding was a cell-phone. He holstered his weapon. He and Zannelli ran at the man, tackling him before he reached the edge. The man struggled to break free. He punched Stevens in the face, then Zannelli in the face. Officer Lavandier pulled up, saw them struggling with the man and drew her Taser. The second of two stuns was effective. The man was handcuffed and brought to safety. Officer Stevens was treated by EMTs at the scene. Officer Diego Quintero arrived with a clinician from the Connecticut Mental Health Center who will research the man’s mental health history.
He was charged with two counts of interfering with officers, two counts of assault of police officers and first degree threatening. He was taken to the hospital, to be evaluated by their psychiatric staff.