(Updated: 4:40 p.m.) Days after cops reported they found a gun owned by Police Sgt. Harold David Setzer in the hands of a convicted felon, Setzer’s son came forward with a cover story.
Setzer (pictured), 41, of Davis Street in New Haven, remains on paid administrative leave from the Waterbury police force, where he’s been a cop for 18 years and a firearms instructor for 10-15 years.
He was arraigned in Connecticut Superior Court on Elm Street Thursday morning. He was arrested Wednesday on seven counts of illegal transfer or sale of a firearm, and one count each of: manufacturing a bomb, illegal possession of explosives, illegal possession of an assault weapon, risk of injury to a minor and illegal possession of fireworks.
Police say Setzer stockpiled weapons and explosives in his Westville home and that a gun he owned was used in five shootings on New Haven streets: Click here for more details.
His lawyers maintained his innocence Thursday morning.
Two arrest warrant affidavits made public in court Thursday recount how Setzer’s 15-year-old son tried to clear his dad’s name when he landed in hot water.
The cover story didn’t add up, police concluded.
His son’s story is detailed in a search warrant and two arrest warrant affidavits signed by New Haven Police Lt. Kenneth Blanchard and Detective Ann Marie La Porta. (Click here to read his arrest warrant.)
Here’s what happened, according to the documents:
Setzer (at right in photo with Attorney Michael Jefferson) came under scrutiny in June when a gun he owned showed up at a crime scene.
The gun, a .32-caliber Beretta Tomcat pistol, was found in the possession of a convicted felon in New Haven on June 15. The gun was registered to Setzer. It had not been reported stolen.
How did it get into a criminal’s hands?
New Haven police called Setzer to inquire. When contacted in June, Setzer told police he traded the Beretta at a gun store because he didn’t like it. He gave an “inconsistent” story about what happened to the gun and failed to provide paperwork backing up his claim, police said.
On July 28, Setzer was called in for an interview with Blanchard and New Haven police Sgt. Dave Taft for a broader discussion on his gun ownership. He told police he was “unsure of what firearms he had sold/traded,” how many guns he owned, and where they were, according to the affidavit. He told police he “forgot the combination” to a safe where he kept guns. Setzer told them he would have a locksmith open the safe and he would return with missing paperwork accounting for his guns.
Setzer never opened the safe nor came back with paperwork, the affidavit charges. Waterbury police got involved. Sgt. Setzer, who has 18 years on the Waterbury police force, was ordered by his deputy police chief, Fernando Spagnolo to bring in his safe so they could break it open. Setzer said he believed there were two .22-caliber guns inside. When they broke it open, the safe was empty, the affidavit charged.
Where were the missing guns? Setzer said he didn’t know.
Setzer turned in his badge and gun in late July and was put on paid administrative leave from the Waterbury police force.
The pressure on Setzer ramped up when, on Aug. 8, a second gun belonging to Setzer showed up at a crime scene. The gun is a .40-caliber Sig Sauer pistol with customized hand grips. One arrest was made. Again, the gun was registered to Setzer and was not reported stolen.
That’s when the sergeant’s 15-year-old son stepped forward.
On Aug. 14, Setzer called Waterbury police to tell them that his son “had some new information about what may have happened to the weapons,” according to the affidavit.
Setzer’s son lives with him on the second story of their home at 73 Davis St. (pictured). The son came to police with his grandmother, Mildred Setzer, who lives on the first floor.
In a taped statement, the teen pinned the missing Sig Sauer pistol on a friend of his named “Tysean something.”
The teen told police a story of how the gun disappeared. He said that “one day at the end of the school year” he invited two friends to his Davis Street home to play video games. While they were there, the teen brought his friends into his father’s room, unlocked a closet with a spare key, and “pulled out two guns,“the teen testified. One of the guns was a Glock; the other was a “Sig” with customized hand grips.
The teen told police that he handed the unloaded guns to his friend “Tysean something,” whose last name he does not know. Tysean “began pointing the guns” at his buddies. Setzer’s son put his dad’s guns back in the closet. However, he said he left Tysean alone for a few minutes. Tysean fled out the back door. Both guns were missing. The teen told police that he believes “Tysean may have stolen the “Sig,” the affidavit states.
Police concluded the story did not add up.
The teen reported the guns were stolen “one day at the end of the school year” “about two months ago,” which would be late June.
On Aug. 17, police got ballistic evidence that placed the Sig at the scene of five shootings dating back to Dec. 13. On that date, the gun was involved in a shootout outside Humphrey’s East bar, where bullets were fired at cops. The other shootings took place on April 15, April 19, June 4 and June 9.
That means the gun was used in at least three shootings before the time when the teen claimed it was stolen, according to police.
The son’s story did not end up clearing his father’s name. Instead, it may to have led his father to more trouble: The son’s story added to testimony that led cops to conclude that there were many guns in Setzer’s home.
That belief led cops to raid the Setzer residence on Aug. 20. Police found: an assault rifle with a bayonet and flash suppressor, an “improvised explosive device,” and commercial-grade fireworks mortar shells.
Several charges against Setzer stem from that raid.
Setzer told police that three to four years ago, he owned an arsenal of 65 guns. Then he “had some financial problems” and “sold most of them to area dealers.”
He turned over 16 remaining guns to cops in August. As of the latest count, he had 23 guns registered in his name, police said. Most are in custody of New Haven and Waterbury police. Seven are unaccounted for and one is an unrecovered gun that he reported stolen from his car.
Setzer looked contrite as he appeared in court Thursday in a blue suit and red tie to answer to the charges about his missing guns.
At first, Setzer appeared to be missing, too. When Judge Roland Fasano called his name in Courtroom B, the sergeant was nowhere to be found.
“Setzer! Setzer!” a marshal called out into the hallway.
“He’s not here,” judicial marshal Jimmy Blakeslee reported back.
A few minutes later, Setzer walked in flanked by his two attorneys, Frank Cannatelli (at left in photo) and Michael Jefferson (at right in photo). He did not enter a plea. His case was transferred to Part A, the Judicial District courthouse on Church Street, as is typical for more serious crimes. He was given a court date of Oct. 13.
“Ma’am, I have no comment at this time,” said the sergeant in a polite, soft voice as he left the courtroom.
On the steps outside the courthouse, he paused with his attorneys to speak to a group of reporters.
His attorneys said their client is innocent and plans to plead not guilty to the charges. They called the case a “misunderstanding.” They declined to address specifics of the allegations.
“David is anxious to have his day in court,” said Jefferson. He said Setzer coached his kid’s sports team and they’ve known each other for years. He said he is confident Setzer’s name will be cleared.