When a top Dixwell cop stumbled home from a night of drinking, he flicked on the lights where his three kids slept and demanded to know if his wife had cooked his “fucking dinner.” As she pulled a warm plate out of the oven, he allegedly chucked an aerosol can at her.
Lt. Raghue Tennant then allegedly asked her to hide the evidence on her swollen face.
According to what the wife later told a detective, Tennant told her she could go to the hospital, but warned her that she’d “lose everything” if she turned him in. The next day, Tennant blamed her for sleeping on the wrong side, worsening the bruising. He told her that she couldn’t leave their East Shore home in case someone spotted her black eye.
In case she didn’t get the message, in the following days, Tennant retrieved multiple guns from the attic and a bedroom safe. He laid out the arsenal before his wife. As he cleaned them, he reportedly told her, “If anyone comes in, the house will get lit up.”
A week later, after a child protective services worker stopped by, a unit of heavily armed police officers wearing Axon body cameras came to his door and detained their fellow officer, who had allegedly kept his wife hostage for a week.
Once in handcuffs, the lieutenant was charged with six charges of domestic violence: one felony count of assault, one felony count of threats and three felony counts of risk of injury to a minor as well as a misdemeanor count of unlawful restraint. For six days, he was held at Yale-New Haven Hospital for a mental-health stabilization.
The above allegations are detailed in a police investigative report released Wednesday to the Independent, in redacted form, by the Superior Court.
The release came on a day of new developments in the case, which has rocked the police department and the city since the SWAT team went to Tennant’s East Shore home on Sept. 6. (Read the full investigative report at the bottom of this story.)
Tennant had been in custody since then. On Wednesday Tennant posted half a million dollars as bond to go free for now while facing those charges.
As a condition of his release, Superior Court Judge James Spallone ordered Tennant to undergo a mental health evaluation. He ordered him to wear a GPS monitor to guarantee he doesn’t try to approach his wife nor cross county lines. Tennant is on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of his criminal case.
Meanwhile, the police have placed Tennant’s wife in a witness protection program. In hiding, she celebrated her oldest child’s birthday with her other two kids. The child turned 6.
In an interview Wednesday, Norm Pattis, Tennant’s defense attorney, said that his client denies the allegations in the police report.
Even if the cops’ version were true, the five felony charges were trumped up, Pattis argued.
“I don’t understand the $500,000 bond. I don’t understand putting Ms. Tennant in the witness protection program. I don’t understand how the state regards this as a felony assault and risk of injury to a minor,” he said. “When I read the police report, I was stunned. All this hoopla over this?”
Pattis said his client plans to plead not guilty at his next court appearance in a week. He also stated that the wife was put in witness protection because she feared the New Haven police, not her husband.
“The real story,” Pattis argued, “is what the hell is going on with the New Haven Police Department.”
Without commenting specifically about this case, Police Chief Anthony Campbell said that in his experience victims of domestic violence by cops often “fear the department is going to look out for the officer and cover things up.”
“That’s not how we operate,” Campbell said. But the fear is out there.
When police first detained Tennant on Sept. 6, he was placed in an emergency hold at the hospital. Meanwhile, other cops interviewed witnesses and combed through his home. They found four guns, including one that was unregistered.
According to a supplemental report in Tennant’s court file released Wednesday, Joshua Kyle found and secured weapons from Tennant’s home.
From the attic Kyle reported securing a Mossberg Model 500A 12 gauge shotgun, a STAG Arms Model STAG-15 rifle, “(8) eight boxes of miscellaneous ammunition (5) five loose 12 gauge shotgun shells, (2) two magazines each containing (30) rounds of .223, and (1) one magazine containing (10) ten rounds of .223.”
From a safe in the main bedroom he reported obtaining “(2) two Connecticut Pistol Permits for Rahgue Tenannt,” a “Bersal Model Thunder .380,” “(2) two magazines each containing (7) .380 rounds, (1) one Springfield AromroyModel X09 9 mm,” and “(2) two Springfield magazines.”
The report stated that Kyle was able to find valid permits and registration for all the weapons except for the Bersa Model Thunder .380, which “did not appear on his registry.”
According to another supplemental report by Officer Jonathan Caron, “Tennant’s wife told police personnel Tennant had abused Xanax medications” and “recently purchased magazines to his firearms, was suicidal, and had homicidal thoughts towards police officers.”
Across the state, nearly 38,400 people were victimized by abusive partners last year, according to a count by the Connecticut Coalition Against Domestic Violence. Many victims of domestic violence, after being battered, belittled, manipulated, stalked or otherwise controlled, often feel trapped in their relationships. They often report not having enough money to find their own housing or not wanting to endanger their kids. Local organizations, like The Umbrella Center for Domestic Violence Services, do offer support for those trying to leave.
Guns & Shootouts
Pattis said that his client is suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, dating back to a decade-old officer-involved shooting.
In December 2004, Hiram Marrero, a 35-year-old man who’d recently had his medication adjusted, had a psychotic break. Wielding a large kitchen knife, he attacked a mental health staffer at Continuum of Care’s supervised apartments in West River, where he lived.
Squadrons of cops sped to the building. Tennant and another cop cornered him at the back, pointing their guns as they commanded him to drop the blade. As Marrero descended an exterior staircase, he threw the knife towards the cops.
Tennant holstered his weapon, thinking Marrero was now unarmed. But when the man reached down to his ankle to pull out a second knife, Tennant fired three shots. In total, Marrero was hit five times, and he later died from the wounds.
After an investigation, the state’s attorney’s office found that the officers had a reasonable belief that Marerro would use the knife “to inflict serious physical injury or death.”
Though all the officers were cleared, that officer-involved shooting (along with seven other uses of deadly force that year) led the city to create a task force that introduced stun-gun Tasers and training for dealing with people in the midst of a mental health crisis.
Pattis said that Tennant was still traumatized by the event a decade ago. He said that if, as alleged, Tennant took Xanax, he is “not using illegal drugs.”
Sergeant Kendall’s Report
Sgt. Shayna L.Kendall wrote the investigative report released Wednesday. The text of the report, including redactions (in brackets), follows:
On September 6, 2019 at approximately 1759 hours, I received a notification call-out for the Hostage Negotiation Team to stage at 830 Woodward Avenue (Distrcit 9 Substation). The information provided was that New Haven Police Lt. Rahgue Tennant barricaded himself in his residence at [ ] after not allowing his wife, [ ] and their three children to leave. Further information revealed that [ ] was able to escape with her children to a neighborhood residence.
Upon arrival to 830 Woodward Avenue, I was met by Command Staff as well as Emergency Services Personnel to discuss the details of the incident. ESU and partnering agencies reconvened to the area surrounding [ ] in an attempt to make contact with a despondent Lt. Rahgue Tennant. Shortly after communication was established, [ ] and her children were relocated to 830 Woodward Avenue where Detective C. Carr and I spoke with her about the events that led up to this incident.
[ ] presented with a discolored and swollen right eye and red marks on her chest and neck area [ ] was crying and in great concern for her well-being and the safety of that of her children and her mother. [ ] indicated that she has been in a relationship with Rahgue since 2004 and they became married in 2009.
[ ] stated that her movement had been restricted by Rahgue since Thursday, August 30, 2018. [ ] stated it was this date that Rahgue had become upset with her and threw a Lysol bottle at her head which caused a large hematoma. [ ] stated Rahgue invited Police Commissioner Greg Smith to their home and had dinner prepared in the oven. [ ] stated Rahgue became upset because the home required cleaning because they were expecting a guest. [ ] indicated that she could not understand if Rahgue became upset about the uncleanliness of the home or that there had been a fly in the home but he had subsequently left.
[ ] stated Rahgue had increased his alcoholic intake and would consume alcohol heavily especially when he would go out. [ ] stated it was no surprise to her that when Rahgue returned to the home, he was irritated. [ ] stated she had been in the bedroom putting the children to bed when Rahgue turned on the lights and began to argue about not having food prepared for him. Raghue stated, “You didn’t make no fucking diner?” [ ] stated she initially told Rahgue that the food was in the oven, however, realized he was agitated and had been out drinking which provoked her to get up to prepare the food for him.
[ ] stated Rahgue told her “from now on when you have something to throw in the trash, you walk your lazy ass outside and throw it in the trash.” [ ] advised Rahgue that they would have to come up with a different solution which [ ] believed Rahgue interpreted as her being disrespectful. Meanwhile [ ] stated she was carrying the dinner plate when Rahgue threw the Lysol can at her head striking her head and face [ ] stated the impact almost instantly created a large hematoma on her head.
[ ] stated she believed Rahgue knew he hurt her, however, perhaps not as bad as he did. [ ] stated Rahgue told her to put ice on her face to avoid the children seeing her face. [ ] stated Rahgue instructed her to go seek treatment at the hospital and to “tell them everything” but warned “you’ll lose everything.” [ ] became fearful and interpreted this comment as Rahgue may “kill” and cause harm to their children. [ ] therefore was unable to seek adequate medical treatment and was told to heal herself by Rahgue. [ ] stated she did not sleep that night and the hematoma began to drain which caused her discolored eye and right side of her face.
[ ] advised that the following day, Rahgue went to Walmart to purchase makeup to conceal her bruising as well as a variety of treatment interventions. [ ] stated at one point Rahgue yelled at her for possibly laying on her injury which made the swelling and appearance of the injury worse. [ ] stated Rahgue would not allow her to leave the home as someone may see and inquire about her head and face. [ ] added Rahgue maintained possession of the family vehicles as well. [ ] stated this was the only instance of physical abuse she endured from Thursday August 30, 2018 until police arrived on September 6, 2018.
[ ] stated in the following days succeeding this incident, Rahgue pulled out several of his weapons and began to clean them in her their bedroom. [ ] stated Rahgue had never done this and while doing so told her that if “anyone comes in the house will get lit up.” [ ] knew this to mean Rahgue would shoot them and feared for her safety as well. With a combination of his words and the cleaning of his weapons in her presence, [ ] feared this was a reality.
[ ] stated she believed threats Rahgue made to be true due to historical abuse where Rahgue has told her that if she threatened the loss of anything he had worked hard for, she would not live to enjoy it. [ ] stated Rahgue had become increasingly aggressive with the more power he obtained within the police department and he had purchased new equipment including magazines and ammunition for his weapons.
[ ] stated she had been planning to seek permanent refuge away from Rahgue due to the ongoing physical violence which also included financial abuse, verbal and emotional abuse. [ ] stated Rahgue does not allow her to work to maintain dominance and control over he. [ ] stated over the past few days she has been contacting Umbrella Center to obtain services and was looking to relocate. It was on September 6, 2018 that Umbrella was notified about physical abuse to [ ] and Rahgue’s children and subsequently notified Department of Children and Families.
[ ] stated she was familiar was familiar with the mandated reporting system and knew that Umbrella would report the incident which is what sparked her need to seek immediate refuge. [ ] stated DCF responded to her home on September 6, 2018. [ ] stated she tried to minimize her communication with them and was given a contact card by the DCF worker.
[ ] stated Rahgue arrived and asked why DCF was at his home. [ ] stated they have surveillance within their home as well as notifications Rahgue receives when someone comes to the home. [ ] stated Rahgue demanded to know and became extremely paranoid. [ ] stated Rahgue was peering through the blinds and was able to speak to someone. [ ] stated she could not hear exactly what he was saying, however, Rahgue told her “now Tony and Herb calling me.” Rahgue was referring to Assistant Chief Otonial Reyes as well as Patrol Commander Lt. Herbert Sharp. [ ] stated Rahgue initially refused to answer and told her to “tell em I’m in the shower.” [ ] stated she then received a call [ ] which Rahgue stated “I don’t answer the phone so Tony gets his wife to all you.”
[ ] stated she answered the phone and attempted to convey that everything was going fine, however, she soon realized that Assistant Chief Reyes was on the phone. [ ] stated she was asked if she was alright and she responded affirmatively and quickly told him she would call him back.
[ ] stated as she heard the shower running, she knew this was her only opportunity to flee the home with her children. [ ] stated she frantically ran to [ ] and entered the unlocked home of [a witness].
[ ] continue to provide historical abuse information which she had never reported to the police. [ ] had to be redirected several times as it appeared as though when speaking of one instance of abuse, it triggered an instance of another familiar time. [ ] stated her children has been present during abusive altercations including this incident and has shown signs of being affected by it. [ ] was advised that her children would be interviewed forensically with her consent as well as obtain services from Yale Child Study.
I subsequently met with Lauigina Allen of DCF Milford. Allen advised me that she received a referral on September 6, 2018 at 1850 hours. The minimum information provided on the referral was that [ ] advised of a fear of physical violence and was fearful of retaliation. Allen stated she and another DCF worker attempted to make contact with [ ] first at 278 Peck Street, however, was unsuccessful. Allen stated they then went to [ ] and did not initially get an answer at the door. Allen stated as they were walking away, [ ] opened the door and Allen asked if her husband (Rahgue) was home. [ ] told Allen he was not, however, decided it was not a good time to speak with Allen.
Allen stated she received a call from Rahgue inquiring as to why she had come to his home. Allen stated Rahuge was initially apprehensive and suspicious asking if Allen was truly a representative of DCF. Allen stated the Program Manager Tricia Falcone then spoke with Rahgue to advise and confirm Allen was from DCF. Allen stated Raghue was informed of their DCF protocol and that an investigation would need to be completed to include a welfare check of the children. Rahgue was adamant that no one was coming to his home and the New Haven Police Department was contacted. Allen stated she spoke with Sgt. C Fennessey who told her that he would coordinate personnel to accompany them on the necessary welfare check. Allen stated before that could be accomplished, the incident turned into a hostage incident.
After speaking with Allen, Detective Carr and I went to 20 York Street CIU in an effort to make contact with Rahgue Tennant. Upon initial contact, Rahgue indicated that he did not feel well and was suffering from a headache.
Following contact with Rahgue, we met with [a witness]. [The witness] stated that she was home with her elderly mother and son when [ ] entered her unlocked home in a panic. [The witness] stated [ ] had her children with her and all [ ] was saying was to “Call 9-1-1.” [The witness] stated at this point she did not know what happened and assumed someone was chasing [ ]. [The witness] stated [ ] locked the door to her home and then started to lock doors and windows inside of her home in apparent fear.
[The witness] stated she heard [ ] talking on the phone and gathered what occurred. It should be noted, [the witness] was initially apprehensive in speaking to Detective Carr and I and stated she was fearful of retaliation if information was provided to Rahgue that she aided [ ] as well as spoke to the police.