Evan stayed up late with Dad watching Kofi Kingston and John Cena wrestle villains on a WWE New Year’s Eve special. Mom was out at work—surprising two real-life up-to-no-goodniks who broke into a liquor store.
Mom—aka New Haven Police Officer Dana Martin (pictured)—was as usual working the graveyard shift. She stayed alert. That helped her interrupt the burglars in mid-heist, then join with her colleagues in bringing them to justice.
If you were Dana Martin, you might find it a challenge to stay that alert. She doesn’t get much sleep. Evan’s 6. So when she’s not chasing burglars in the dead of night, she’s busy being a mom. On a typical day she may squeeze in four hours of winks.
Yet alert she stays. So alert that she has earned the nickname “Hawkeye” on the force.
The liquor store burglary showed how that alertness makes a difference.
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Martin’s alertness was but a small part of an extended group effort by cops that led to the department’s first major arrest of the new year. It was an important part.
Martin, who’s 38, managed to get in her four-hour nap before coming to work. Evan got to stay up late as a special treat for New Year’s Eve. Martin left as her husband Scott sat with Evan on the couch watching the WWE holiday special.
She went to work patrolling the East Shore on the 11 p.m.-7 a.m. shift. She has worked the overnight shift there since joining the force over three years ago. She has worked every New Year’s Eve. She knew to expect a busy night.
Busy it was. First she and a partner, Officer Sean Sullivan, responded to a report of a street fight on Oak Ridge Drive. Turns out the only attacks lodged were verbal. The officers intervened and everyone went home.
Then came a call of a problem on Goodwin Street. Martin and Sullivan headed over in their separate patrol cars.
It was 12:50 p.m. Martin, who sometimes performs singing R&B on the side, had a radio tuned to 107.5 ZOO FM. The R&B station is her secret stimulant to stay awake on overnight duty. She doesn’t drink coffee; occasionally she’ll stop for a Pepsi mid-shift if she needs a caffeine jolt. But she was always a night owl, just like her dad, Douglas Edge, who for decades ran the Seven-Eleven club on Winchester Avenue. She always had a lot of energy and endurance, running track and playing basketball and volleyball in high school. She worked 11 years as a 911 fire dispatcher before becoming a cop; she worked the overnight shift then, too. (Click here for a story about some of her exploits in that job.)
Driving her police cruiser along Quinnipiac Avenue on the way to the Goodwin Street call early Tuesday, Martin heard an alarm sound. She slowed down, cracked the window, followed the sound to Empire Liquor store.
With Sullivan’s cruiser behind hers, she pulled up to the store, shined a flashlight into the window. She couldn’t see inside past the advertising signs in the windows.
She turned the flashlight to the left. No sign of anyone.
“I just took a chance shining the light to check for broken glass,” she recalled.
She turned the flashlight to the right. Just then two hooded people ran out and up Quinnipiac Avenue.
Officer Gene Trotman, a police academy classmate of Martin who subsequently partnered with her on the East Shore overnight patrol for a few years, wasn’t surprised when he later heard about Martin shining her light at the right spot at the right time.
It was Trotman who gave Martin the nickname “Hawkeye.”
“When I tell you she sees everything, it’s no exaggeration,” he said. When they would knock on a door trying to get someone to come out, “she would notice that small slip in the blinds on the third floor. Any little thing that’s off, she’d see it before you did.”
“Show Me Your Hands!”
From Empire Liquor, Martin and Sullivan followed in their cruisers after the fleeing burglars, who ran into a red house on Quinnipiac Avenue. Martin pulled into an adjacent driveway. Then a white Honda Civic came speeding out of the red house’s driveway. The driver turned right onto Quinnipiac—right toward Sullivan’s approaching cruiser. The driver did a U-Turn, tore down Quinnipiac in the other direction.
A chase was on. Several other cops joined it.
With four cruisers in pursuit, the Civic’s driver peeled onto the I-95 southbound on ramp from Middletown Avenue. The driver lost control and crashed into a guardrail. The Civic turning 180 degrees before stopping. The driver jumped out, down an embankment. Several officers, including Sullivan, followed him down into the dark.
Martin remained at the scene of the crash. Her Glock .45 drawn, she approached the Civic. She saw a woman in the front passenger seat.
“Show me your hands! Show me your hands!” Martin called out.
The woman complied. She was crying. Martin and Officer Rosa Melendez cuffed and arrested her.
Several problems required Martin’s attention at once. The six or seven cars had backed up on the entrance ramp, for instance. “We’re all tired. But you’ve got to keep everybody’s safety in mind. You’ve got people on the highway not knowing what’s going on. You’ve got a car turned around.” Martin noticed an elderly couple in the front seat of the second car in line on the ramp. Martin approached the woman in the passenger seat. “Give me a couple of minutes. I’m going to get you off the highway safely,” Martin remembers telling her. As other officers blocked ramp’s entrance down on Middletown Avenue, Martin and a colleague directed the backed-up drivers one by one to turn around and drive back down onto Middletown Avenue.
Then Martin returned to the car. She didn’t have permission to enter it yet. She did see a liquor bottle on the front seat—and a gun on the floor. She noted the vehicle identification number on the open driver’s door. She ran that number and the plate number; the plate came back stolen, the vehicle unregistered.
Meanwhile, Sullivan had led other officers on foot after driver fleeing down the thorny dark embankment. The driver fell twice. Sullivan fell twice. Sullivan finally caught him and arrested him.
Martin next headed to Empire Liquors. The owner was on scene now. A small grey Century safe lay on the ground by damaged front door; the burglars had apparently dropped it in order to take off when Martin shined her flashlight. The owner reported that the burglars had made off with six or seven cartons Marlboro, Newport, USA, and Fortune cigarettes. They had gotten into a cash drawer; he wasn’t sure how much if any money was missing.
Martin and Sullivan brought all their evidence to police headquarters at 1 Union Ave. Then she headed to the Woodward Avenue substation to file her report. After a while everything she typed came out in Greek.
She couldn’t fix the keyboard. “I think that was the most frustrating,” she said. According to her supervisor, top East Short cop Sgt. Vincent Anastasio, Martin is particularly diligent about staying on top of her reports every night. Refusing to give up, Martin drove back to 1 Union Ave. to resume filing the report. In English.
Squeezing Time In
She finished by 8:30 a.m. Evan, having stayed up late for her new year’s TV treat, wasn’t up yet. Husband Scott was.
“I was so tired, I was talking crazy. My husband was laughing, told me to take a nap.”
Instead she took a shower, then hugged and kissed Evan when he woke up, as she always does when she gets home.
The time constraints of working the overnight shift can make a mom feel guilty, no matter how hard she tries to make sure she has time with her son. Martin makes a point of picking up Evan from the bus stop after school at 3:50 p.m. She takes him home, helps him with homework, or just hangs out, and cooks dinner for the family. Scott gets home from work at Pratt & Whitney around 4:20. The family eats dinner by 4:30 or 5. At 5:30, while Scott hangs out with Evan, Martin tries to catch a few hours shut-eye before heading back to work.
Evan needs to spend most weeknights at the nearby home of Martin’s nearby parents; Scott has to leave for work at 5 a.m. and Martin doesn’t get off work before Evan wakes up. She does return in time to take him to the bus stop for school. She said she tends to forgo extra-duty work in order to be there for Evan.
“I know he’s in good hands” at her parents’ home, Martin said. But “I have days when I feel guilty, like don’t spend enough time with him.” Then again, Evan’s growing up somewhat the way Martin did: With lots of adult family members in his daily life. A “village” raising a child. As a teenager, Martin spent considerable time helping to care for a grandmother who lived with her family and had Alzheimer’s. She found she enjoyed helping people. The niece of a cop (retired New Haven Detective James Ponteau), she decided she eventually wanted to become a nurse or a police officer.
She tries to catch a few hours of sleep during the daytime while Evan’s at school. That’s not always possible. “I’m still a wife and a mom” in addition to working as a cop, she noted. “I still have to do like everybody else—grocery shopping, cleaning, school, seeing my parents.”
On New Year’s Day she woke up at 1:30 p.m. She, Scott and Evan headed over to Martin’s parents’ home for a holiday dinner. Then it was back to the East Shore for another graveyard shift.
Meanwhile, detectives got to work investigating the two alleged New Year’s liquor-store burglars she and Sullivan had arrested. They found other apparently stolen goods in a motel room rented by the female arrestee. By Thursday the police said they believed they were on their way to tying the pair to a string of burglaries committed in New Haven and neighboring towns. A little 6-year-old boy might not have had mom home to watch the purported wrestling heroes on TV; but he was growing up with a mom who was performing real-life heroics beyond the reach of a John Cena or Kofi Kingston out in the arena of New Haven’s East Shore.
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
• Paul Bicki
• Paul Bicki (2)
• Sheree Biros
• Scott Branfuhr
• Dennis Burgh
• Anthony Campbell
• 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
• Jeremie Elliott and Scott Shumway
• Bertram Etienne
• Martin Feliciano & Lou DeCrescenzo
• Paul Finch
• Jeffrey Fletcher
• Renee Forte
• Marco Francia
• William Gargone
• William Gargone & Mike Torre
• Derek Gartner
• Derek Gartner & Ryan Macuirzynski
• 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
• Jillian Knox
• 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
• Salvador Rodriguez (2)
• Brett Runlett
• David Runlett
• Allen Smith
• Marcus Tavares
• Martin Tchakirides
• Stephan Torquati
Gene Trotman Jr.
• Kelly Turner
• Lars Vallin (& Xander)
• John Velleca
• Manuella Vensel
• Holly Wasilewski
• Alan Wenk
• Stephanija VanWilgen
• Matt Williams
• Michael Wuchek
• David Zannelli
• David Zaweski