Officer Lloyd Barrett’s latest fatal hit-and-run investigation began the same way as the one he just solved: with a fragment of a killer car.
For Barrett, who’s become the department’s go-to accident reconstructionist, that scrap of evidence was enough to track down the man who allegedly sped away from a dying biker.
In the past, his searches for drivers fleeing accidents have taken the former Marine as far as Florida. This time, Barrett found his man closer to home.
Working largely under his guidance, a team of police arrested a West Haven man on Thursday for a variety of charges stemming from a hit-and-run that killed a motorcyclist on May 30.
It was the third fatal hit-and-run that Barrett, who’s 40, has investigated in his 10 years as an accident reconstructionist with the New Haven police department. In that decade, he’s developed an expertise that the department relies on. Fellow cops call him first when a nasty motor vehicle crash comes over the radio. When they need his advice, supervisors even send officers to look for Barrett at Gold’s Gym, the only place he turns off his cellphone.
Barrett’s experience came into play when he showed up at the scene of the motorcycle crash at Howard and Spring Avenues on May 30. He’d seen a similar situation before—the car involved in the fatality was long gone, leaving only a tell-tale fragment.
That was the case at the scene of another fatal hit-and-run, the one that took the life of 15-month-old baby on June 6, 2009. In that case, Barrett and Det. Bertram Etienne worked from a license plate bracket and some eyewitness accounts to track the offending car to Florida. That investigation is still underway; police have been closing in on a suspect.
Barrett said he learned some vital lessons on how to piece together a hit-and-run investigation from working with Det. Etienne on the fatality at Mansfield and Division Streets. He learned how to slow down and turn the heat up on a suspect, and he made the personal connections that proved key to unlocking the most recent fatal hit-and-run.
Collision To Confession
The arrest warrant affidavit for the May 30 motorcycle fatality case was prepared by Officer Jonathan Young, who headed up the investigation with the guidance and cooperation of Officer Barrett, according to Lt. Petisia Adger. Here’s what happened, according to Young’s report and an interview with Barrett:
At about 3:24 a.m. on Sunday, May 30, officers responded to a crash at the intersection of Howard Avenue and Spring Street in the Hill. Charles Carrasquillo, a West Havener, had been traveling north on Howard Avenue on his Suzuki bike when, according to two witnesses, the driver of an SUV ran a red light at Spring Street and turned left to head south on Howard Avenue. Carrasquillo struck the SUV and was killed. The driver of the SUV drove off.
Both witnesses, a bystander and a motorcyclist who had been following Carrasquillo, described the offending car as a white SUV with tinted windows, a chrome grill, and chrome windows and accents. They didn’t catch the make, model, or plate number.
“All we had was a piece of the bumper,” Barrett said. “No numbers. Nothing.”
Barrett knew what to do with the scrap of evidence.
He took it to the North Haven Mercedes dealership that had helped him identify the type of car that was allegedly involved in the June 2009 hit-and-run that killed the 15-month-old. Barrett’s contact at the dealership examined the fragment and made some calls. He concluded that it most likely came from an American car, and referred Barrett to a dealership in Old Saybrook.
Barrett said he’s always impressed by how people go out of their way to help an investigation. He attributed it to a contagious dedication to closing the case. “People care,” he said. “They know your heart is 100 percent into this.”
At a GMC dealership in Old Saybrook, Barrett found more assistance. A staffer there took a look at his bumper fragment and compared it to some SUVs on the lot. He said it looked like a GMC Yukon Denali, and offered to order a bumper, to make sure. He cut the cops a deal on the part.
When the part arrived they made their match. They knew they were looking for a white GMC Yukon Denali from between 2001 and 2006.
Officer Young contacted the Connecticut DMV and requested a list of all matching vehicles registered in Connecticut. It returned some 300 Yukon Denalis. Officers Barret, Young, and Steve Manware began checking out the addresses to which they were registered, starting with those closest to New Haven.
It took several visits to a house at Lee Street in West Haven—less than two miles from the crash scene—before Officers Young and Manware spotted the Yukon Denali they were looking for, on Aug. 3. The white 2002 GMC Yukon Denali had a chrome grill and fuel door, and chrome rims, door handles, side mirrors, and accents on the front fenders. The officers saw that repairs had been made to the left rear side of the vehicle.
The owner of the vehicle and his brother-in-law, its primary driver, agreed to meet with Officers Barrett, Manware, and Young at police headquarters. They denied any involvement in the crash but consented to have the car searched and examined.
On Aug. 4, New Haven detectives determined that the SUV had recently been repaired, in the area where the SUV involved in fatal hit-and-run had been hit.
Police were becoming more and more confident they had the perpetrator. But while his colleagues were pushing to bring the guy in, Barrett urged patience. It’s something he learned from working with Det. Etienne, Barrett said. In dealing with the suspect in the fatal motorcycle crash, Barrett slowed things down and let the driver know they were on his trail, in an attempt to have him come in voluntarily.
“We turned up the heat just a little bit,” he said. “We let him think about it for a couple of days.”
Sure enough, they got their confession. First the owner of the car came in. He said he’d lied in his taped statement to the police, when he said he didn’t know anything about the crash. He said he saw damage to the SUV when his brother-in-law came home on the morning of May 30, damage that hadn’t been there the night before. By that afternoon, the brother-in-law was gone, headed to Atlanta for two weeks. When he came back, all the damage was repaired and the Denali had different rims. That’s when the brother-in-law confessed to him that he’d been in a crash.
On Aug. 5, he confessed to the police.
The driver of the SUV met with Officers Young and Manware at police headquarters. In a taped statement, he gave police his story of what happened that fateful night. He told them he had been at the Cancun Bar on Water Street until 2 a.m. He’d had three or four beers, but thought he was OK to drive. He headed to another club, in Fair Haven, then left at 3 a.m. He ended up heading west on Spring Street. At the corner of Howard Avenue, he stopped for a red light. When the light turned green, he turned left and suddenly saw a motorcycle skidding towards him, then felt it hit his car. He got scared and drove away on Howard Avenue. Once back home in West Haven, he took off his chrome rims, threw them in the car, and put on his old stock rims. He drove to Atlanta, where he has family, and gave the chrome rims to his sister-in-law. While in Atlanta, he repaired the car and painted it himself. He headed back to Connecticut a week later.
Police found that he has had his driving privileges suspended in Connecticut since 1994. Police arrested him for evading responsibility, tampering with evidence, interfering with an officer, operating under suspension, and failure to obey a traffic signal.
Marine To Motorcycle
Although he declined to disclose specifics, Barrett said he’s optimistic that the other two fatal hit-and-runs he’s worked on will soon conclude similarly.
The first of those is the case of Gabrielle Lee, the 11-year-old who was run down on Whalley Avenue in June 2008. The second is the case of the 15-month-old who was killed at Mansfield and Division in June 2009. That’s the case that found Barrett paired with Det. Etienne. The duo went twice to Florida to look for and then recover the Mercedes allegedly involved in the hit and run. The pieces of that case are falling into place, Barrett said.
Aside from investigating fatalities, Barrett is called in to all kinds of serious motor vehicle accidents in New Haven. He’s the most experienced of the department’s 14 accident reconstructionists.
Sgt. John Magoveny said he rode with Barrett for years as a motorcycle cop. Now he’s his immediate supervisor. “We’re in the process of fine-tuning the [accident reconstruction] unit. The foundation of that unit is Lloyd Barrett. He guides and directs everyone on that unit with very little supervision,” Magoveny said. “I cannot find a finer investigator.”
Barrett regularly works on cases in his personal time, said Lt. Adger.
“Once I sink my teeth into something, I don’t want to stop,” Barrett said. “The families want closure,” he said.
His work ethic comes also from his years in the Marine Corps, Barrett said. After growing up in rural southern Connecticut, Barrett headed off to Norfolk State University in Virginia. Two years into an architecture degree, Barrett realized he needed a change and enlisted in the Marines. He served for six years, earning the rank of corporal and taking part in the first Gulf War.
“I loved it,” he said of the Marine Corps. “I needed discipline. ... That’s where I learned my drive, to push myself.”
Returning to Connecticut after the Marines, Barrett signed up for the New Haven police. He saw it as a natural extension of his military service, and an opportunity for public service.
After several years assigned to Westville, Barrett became a motorcycle cop, which is how he got into accident reconstruction. In the early days, he would deconstruct the scene of an accident with a tape measure. Now he uses lasers and computers to turn accident scenes into precise 3-D models. He’s assigned to the East Shore, no longer on the motorcycle, and works on accident reconstruction citywide.
An Accidental Engagement
Barret’s knowledge of crashes is not just theoretical.
“I was hit twice while I was on motorcycle,” he said. He’s got the scars on his arms and the back of his head to prove it.
The more memorable of the crashes occurred while he was on the way to the scene of an accident involving his future wife.
Barrett is married to another city cop, Det. Wendy Barrett. They met on the job, started dating after two years as friends, and managed to keep their relationship secret from almost everyone on the job, except Wendy’s partner.
One day, four years ago, Lloyd was on his motorcycle, working at a small parade in Fair Haven, when he got a call from Wendy’s partner: She’d been T-boned in a car accident during a chase at Orange and Trumbull Streets.
Lloyd immediately went to his supervisor and said, “I heard Wendy was in an accident!” Lloyd recalled. “He’s like, ‘So?’” The supervisor didn’t know Wendy was Lloyd’s fiancee.
“I’ve got to make sure Wendy’s OK,” Lloyd said to him. “He said, ‘OK.’”
Lloyd headed to the scene, lights flashing, siren wailing. But a driver pulling onto Trumbull Street didn’t see him or hear him. Lloyd ended up getting T-Boned himself. “I flew in the air,” he said. “I landed flat on the street, unconscious.”
Wendy came over. “Lloyd, are you OK?”
A few minutes later, the secretly engaged couple was sitting on the curb, recovering from their respective accidents. The captain of patrol showed up. “Lloyd, I don’t know why you’re here,” he said. “But are you OK?”
A few months later, Lloyd and Wendy threw an engagement party and revealed their secret to all their friends and colleagues on the force.
Barrett has been not only solving crimes, but preventing them as well. A few years ago, he worked on a grant that paid for overtime for preventing drag racing. Fatalities associated with drag racing went from 15 per year to two, Barrett said.
Now he’s working on a grant to pay for enforcement of the law preventing cell phone use while driving. New Haven also needs to address the huge number of incidents involving evasion of responsibility. Hit-and-runs account for 22 percent of motor vehicle accidents in New Haven, he said.
It’s important to work on preventive enforcement, not just tracking down evaders, Barrett said. “I don’t want to investigate fatals.”
Read other installments in the Independent’s “Cop of the Week” series:
• Shafiq Abdussabur
• Maneet Bhagtana
• Scott Branfuhr
• Dennis Burgh
• Sydney Collier
• David Coppola
• Roy Davis
• Joe Dease
• Milton DeJesus
• Brian Donnelly
• Anthony Duff
• Bertram Etienne
• Paul Finch
• Jeffrey Fletcher
• Renee Forte
• Marco Francia
• William Gargone
• William Gargone & Mike Torre
• Derek Gartner
• Jon Haddad & Daniela Rodriguez
• Dan Hartnett
• Ray Hassett
• Robin Higgins
• Ronnell Higgins
• Racheal Inconiglios
• Hilda Kilpatrick
• Peter Krause
• Amanda Leyda
• Anthony Maio
• Steve McMorris
• Stephanie Redding
• Tony Reyes
• Luis & David Rivera
• Salvador Rodriguez
• Brett Runlett
• David Runlett
• Marcus Tavares
• Martin Tchakirides
• Stephan Torquati
• Gene Trotman Jr.
• Kelly Turner
• John Velleca
• Alan Wenk
• Michael Wuchek
• David Zannelli
• David Zaweski
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