Zannelli And Ali Meet Again

Thomas MacMillan PhotoOffice David Zannelli stepped into a bedroom on Division Street and found the alleged gun dealer he was looking for still in bed. “You remember me?” he asked.

The 23-year-old suspect, known as “Ali,” did remember him. He’d had a run-in with Zannelli (at right in photo) in 2009, when the officer arrested him on a narcotics charge in the Dwight/Kensington neighborhood, the district where Zannelli, a New Haven cop, was assigned at the time.

For the past nine months, Zannelli has been assigned to a federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) task force. For six months, he’s been gathering evidence against a variety of alleged gun dealers—including Ali.

Six months of labor came to fruition Wednesday morning with Ali’s arrest. He was one of 11 suspects rounded up by police in the first five hours of a day-long operation Wednesday.

Some three dozen cops, ATF agents and U.S. marshals fanned out across the city to execute warrants on 24 suspects.

The police action targeted gun offenders in order to reduce violence in the city, said Lt. Jeff Hoffman, head of the Tactical Narcotics Unit. Cops are hoping to remove firearms from the street and track where they’re coming from, both by talking to previous owners of the guns and by arresting and interviewing alleged gun-sellers, Hoffman said.

Fifteen guns have been recovered so far in the six-month investigation. No guns had been seized during the day’s raids as of noon Wednesday.

In the pre-dawn hours, Zannelli and five other cops gathered in the parking lot behind the police station at 1 Union Ave. Another team, led by Lt. Hoffman, mustered there as well. Four other teams took part in the day’s raids.

Warrants for Ali were secured with the help of a confidential informant, Zannelli said. He had three possible addresses for Ali. He knew the car he was looking for: a dark green Nissan Maxima. Cops had recorded video and audio of Ali selling guns out of the car on two occasions.

In an unmarked SUV and a white Crown Vic, Zannelli’s squad rolled to the first location: Ali’s mom’s house on Tyler street in the Hill.

They didn’t see the Maxima there. They decided not to talk to the mother, lest she tip off her son.

At the second location, an apartment on Norton Street where Ali’s girlfriend lives, the Maxima was again nowhere to be seen. Zannelli and his team decided to take the risk of knocking on the door and asking after Ali. No luck.

The team headed to Division Street in Newhallville, and found the Maxima parked on the street. Cops entered an apartment across the street belonging to Ali’s girlfriend’s aunt. That’s where they found their man, asleep in bed with his girlfriend, with his baby daughter nearby.

Moments later, a cop who was masked to protect his identity emerged from the apartment. He summoned a prisoner conveyance van by radio. “We need a 29 at 215 Division.”

Zannelli came out a few minutes later. “He’s saying goodbye to his daughter,” he said of Ali.

He said the suspect was cooperative. Ali was arrested on two warrants for a variety of charges, including possession of a sawed-off shotgun, weapon in a motor vehicle, violation of a protective order, and illegal sale of a gun.

Ali has previous arrests dating back to 2007 on charges including larceny, trespassing, interfering, breach of peace, and possession of marijuana.

No guns or drugs were found in the apartment with Ali.

As he waited for the prisoner van, Zannelli shared some of the theory behind the gun raids.

“We’re trying to get as many firearms off the street as possible,” he said. The warrant executions are the first of a two-part process, he said. The “second wave” will involve interviewing the permit holders of any guns recovered. The theft or sale of a gun should be reported to authorities within a certain time period, Zannelli said. If that’s not done, police want to know why not.

The point is to determine how guns wind up on the streets of New Haven. “We want to know what their supply is, who’s giving them the guns.” The next step will be to interview Ali. “He has to have a connection.”

Later, after an interview with Ali, Zannelli said Ali had “purchased [the guns] from random individuals with intention of doubling the money on the street.”

When the van arrived, cops marched Ali out of the apartment. As Ali was transferred from one pair of cops to another, Zannelli helped put a hat on him.

“It can get cold in lock-up,” he said.

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posted by: anon on October 19, 2011  12:48pm

Say you are a 12 year old boy living next door. 

Are the police officers working with you, helping to build prosperity and jobs, and living with your community?  Or are they an “occupying army”? 

Neighborhoods are only as safe as the number of officers who live in and participate in them, not the statistics on patrols or arrests.  Virtually all of our officers live out of town.

posted by: Mike on October 19, 2011  1:16pm

Guns off the street and no one gets hurt, a win, win.
The last statement regarding the officer helping to ensure Ali’s hat was on to stay warm = enforcement with compassion.
Good job.

posted by: to anon on October 19, 2011  1:40pm


sounds like you would like to see the police change their job descriptions from law enforcement to social workers… but isn’t that why we have guidance counselors at schools, to handle situations like you described with helping to build prosperity and helping our young people with finding jobs? Or is our staff and faculty in our school systems just an “occupying army” too?

hugs for thugs has not worked in this city. any more ideas?

posted by: in love on October 19, 2011  3:24pm

Zannelli is a good officer and the best looking on the force!! He makes me melt!

posted by: anon on October 19, 2011  3:49pm

to anon:

Actually, I think officers could function less like social workers, and more like beat cops. 

The key isn’t what stats they rack up, it is whether officers live in the neighborhood.  Currently, almost none do. 

It is ironic that while New Haven pays for more police officers to drive and walk our streets than any other town does, the surrounding towns see virtually all of the benefits, because they can count far more cops per capita among their residents.

We used to require our officers to live in the city. Crime spiraled out of control after that policy came to an end due to pressure from suburban unions.

posted by: Ex-NHPD on October 19, 2011  4:25pm

Anon—-I spent the first third of my NHPD career as a New Haven resident; I lived there for three years before I was hired as well.  Was I a better cop when I lived in New Haven?  Did my dedication to my chosen career slide when I moved?  The answer to both is no.

There are good cops who live in New Haven.  There are not so good cops who live there as well.  The same goes for those cops who do not live in New Haven.

Should the residents of Greenwich, Westport, New Caanan, Darien, etc. expect/demand that their cops live in their town?

A residency requirement is not a panacea to geting better cops, firemen, teachers, etc.  It can at times limit the pool of qualified applicants.

posted by: anon on October 19, 2011  5:19pm

Ex-NHPD, I get your point, and there are a few great officers living in New Haven, but you are giving anecdotal information. 

The plain fact is, that areas with very few officers living in them generally see much higher crime rates. 

Of the officers who do live here, which streets do they live on?  The ones with crime rates similar to the suburbs, or the ones where people are being hit by bullets several times each week?

Bring officers back to the neighborhoods, preferably by using incentives that make it an easy choice for them (like what Yale does with its housing and education incentives), and crime rates in those areas will plummet.

The other choice is to keep doing nothing and let the status quo prevail.  If there’s one thing we know for sure, it is that treating all areas equally simply reinforces existing inequalities.  We’ll go from 10% of patrolmen living in New Haven to 0%.

posted by: to Anon from Pro.Cop on October 19, 2011  6:09pm

I agree with Ex-NHPD, and it’s not because I am pro cop. I agree with him because I have lived in New Haven all of my life, and I plan on becoming a police officer next year. Will I move out of New Haven?? Absolutely!!!! Does that make me a horrible police officer? Absolutely not!

The moral of the story is cops aren’t here to stop crime. They deter it. If the neighborhood is that damn bad, then get together as a community and do something about it. If you don’t agree with that, then how about you blame police officers for all the problems that exist in the world including anything that goes on in your personal life. The people who live in these neighborhoods have to start taking some responsibility!

Parents need to start controlling their children. That’s the problem.

posted by: timmy on October 19, 2011  7:49pm


I can appreciate your frustration with cops living out of town.  there are a few very important facts that need to be understood.

1) if a cop lives in a NH neighborhood with his family, there is a loss of safety for their family.

2) Officer A locks up bad guy C at C’s house.  C’s kids witness this and go to the same school as A’s kids and retaliates against that kid.

3) NH police can not go out in new haven with their family without fear of their safety.  Most cops carry a gun with them 24/7

posted by: Matty on October 19, 2011  8:01pm

Go NHPD! Go after the guns!

posted by: streever on October 20, 2011  5:57am

Great bust—and conducted with professionalism and character. I really appreciate the generosity that Zannelli displayed—sounds like he is a secure and confident dude who treats others with respect.

posted by: Steve Grogan on October 20, 2011  7:24am

Zanelli is a good cop. He reminds me of Tom Brady if Brady was a cop.

posted by: Jonathan Hopkins on October 20, 2011  12:50pm

There probably is a decent argument that could be made for why police officers who live in New Haven have a more vested interest in protecting and uplifting the city than out-of-towners, but that really isn’t the point of having police officers live here.
Part of it is taxes and how horrible a financial practice it is to have very poor people subsidizing public employees suburban lifestyles that they themselves can only dream of. Public employees should contribute to their own salaries through taxes.
The main point on residency requirements especially for police officers is something that “anon” has said, but seemed to keep being overlooked. Blocks that cops live on tend to be blocks where drug dealers don’t hang out, shootings don’t occur and crime generally is low. At a community meeting a couple years ago, former police officer Stacy Spell made the excellent point that people don’t fool around on his block because they no he is there and just his presence is a deterrent to crime. Crime stats back up this assertion as the crime on his block are drastically lower than surrounding ones even though the demographics are the same.

The potential negative impact on an officer’s family in terms of retaliation is greatly outweighed by the benefits of having police officers living and working in troubled neighborhoods for the residents because they currently face an incredible threat of violence, and attacks on police and their families are almost non-existent. Also, as the neighborhood improves with a larger, permanent police presence, that threat is continually minimized. The city may also be able to hire additional police with the new revenue generated from a residency requirement in the form of taxes.

posted by: HhE on October 20, 2011  1:29pm

Jonathan Hopkins, you are very generous with other people’s lives.  A very good friend of mine is a NHPD Officer, and lives in the city.  Right next door to him, lives a drug dealer.  “He goes to work.  I go to work.  We both know each other’s business.”  So while I am sure it has some deterrence value, it is hardly a cure.  I should like to see more police live in the city.  I should like too see a more equitable and honest system of taxation municipal funding.  I’m just one to cross the line into demanding that officers live here. 

As a school teacher, had any district said in an interview, “We expect you to move here.”  I would have turned them down.

Well said Streever.  Humanity makes a big difference. 

Good hunting NHPD.  Thanks for doing a dangerous job so well.

posted by: Sad on October 21, 2011  1:07pm

To john hopkins,

I am an officer in the NHPD and I am disturbed by some of your comments regarding the residency requirements. Am I to risk my family’s safety in order to make one block safer? There is nothing in the NHPD job description that states such. I dont think that there is any job that calls for the employee to do that. Did you know that during the summer, a hit was placed on a certain officers life because he was disrupting the drug trade on a particularly violent street? Several weeks after this information was passed to the department, the very same officer was walking out of his apartment (in new haven), and a member of the drug dealers gang was waiting outside of his home. The gang member said, “so this is where you live”. Keep in mind this officer lives on the opposite side of the city. He was immediately transfered from the district. The officer has a wife and kids.

If a residency requirement were enacted, i would move to the district with the lowest crime and best schools, for my family. So besides the monitary benefit of having another tax payer, how would my residency help lower shootings and murders when i still will not be living in those neighborhoods? I would suspect my fellow officers would probably do the same (as would every other logical human being, and yes, even you)
You use the example of Stacy Spellman as “evidence” to support yourargument, but i can tell you the there are many officers living in the public housing complexes throughout the city as part of the officers next door program (basically free or reduced rent) but that has not stopped the drug dealing nor the shooting.
Police are like everyone else, we want what is best for our families. I will look for crime and school rankings when thinking of moving into a neighborhood. I dont believe that an officer living in a violent neighborhood will bring any meaningful changes. I think those statistics about officer living in safe neighborhoods are exactly that, officers will move thier families to safer neighborhoods. I bet if you do the same study about nurses, doctors, firemen, accountants, or lawyers, you will find the same result. I think the question should be do cops moving into neighborhoods make them safer or do cops move to safer neighborhoods? 

If residency requirement were to be enacted, I would immediately seek to move into the safest district with the best performing school. I will avoid the violent and drug infested neighborhoods. This is what any logical human being would do. 

So I am to risk my child’s saftey so that you can have a safer block?

posted by: Sad on October 21, 2011  9:29pm

Ignore the last paragraph, editing error

posted by: Trustme on October 22, 2011  11:28am

...  How are our guidance counselors doing in schools, not that good because most of our shootings are being done by young males WHO STILL GO TO SCHOOL. I know 14 year old boys that have aspirations of committing a murder, FOR FUN, and there is nothing you can do about that unless a boat load of money is willing to be spent on the young male to change his life and that still is a huge MAYBE. Hey Anon I got an idea, go grab a blow horn or cow bell or a 5 gallon bucket and some sticks or whatever music instrument ur into and go parade with the ...s on the Green. And by the way Anon, it’s tuff being a good active officer in a busy city that you work in for several HUGE reasons, let’s start off with; personal safety, protect the household, and family. The last thing a good officer needs, is to be mowing the front lawn and some car of gangmenbers get out of their car and shoots him in his own home. There are great cops in New Haven that live in New Haven and god bless them. Anon won’t say it, well I will, GREAT JOB and keep getting the guns and hopefully a few lives were saved by arresting those criminals.