The investigation into the youth party on Oenoke Ridge that resulted in a juvenile male being seriously injured appears to be progressing slowly and there’s a fear that no charges are forthcoming, an uncle of the teen who was hurt said Wednesday night.
Lee Jones told members of the Police Commission at their regular meeting that he would like to help find a cross-community solution to underage drinking in New Canaan and that, with respect to his nephew’s case specifically, “it just seems this has been a couple months now, I know it’s an investigation that is ongoing, I’ve heard a lot of different things—I’m trying not to listen to the rumors—but at the pace that it is going compared to other towns and all the other situations, there must be a problem.”
“And I get asked all the time—we have been in town 53 years and I am representing our family—and a lot of people are thinking that it is either, one, the [host] family has ‘lawyered up’ and kind of intimidated everybody, which I do not believe because I don’t believe you can intimidate the town,” he said at the meeting, held at the New Canaan Police Department. “Or there is something else that is going on but it is not being addressed. So I am just looking for clarity.”
Jones added: “If there are no consequences and people can kind of ‘lawyer up’ and buy their way out of it and delay the game until it goes away, then guess what? Nothing changes. Nothing changes.”
He concluded: “I see it with the parents and what they enable children to do and what they do with them and even taking selfies with them. So all I am saying is I volunteer to be part of the conversation going forward, and I just want justice to happen.”
Speaking specifically to the department’s investigation into the March 25 party at an Oenoke Ridge Road residence, Police Chief Leon Krolikowski said: “Our intent is to hold people criminally accountable for behavior that happened that night, so that is our intent and hopefully that is going to conclude very soon.”
During a discussion of initiatives out of NCPD to address underage drinking, Krolikowski added: “We are doing an education program, a diversionary program for kids involved in low level offenses with alcohol and also we aggressively investigate instances—some are more complex, like this one, and it takes a lot longer to piece it together and make sure we have a good case for prosecution.”
The chief continued: “One thing I will say is what you can do is tell every single parent you know that it is not acceptable allow your kids who are underage to drink. Because that is the biggest problem and parents in this town can stop it from happening and some of them are not.”
Immediately after the party, police put out a call for help in gathering information as part of the department’s investigation.
It isn’t clear just how the teen was injured and, if so, who was responsible, whether alcohol or drugs were involved and, if so, who brought it.
Much of the discussion before the Police Commission centered on New Canaan’s pervasive problem with underage drinking parties and what appears to be the complicity of some parents in them.
“I don’t know if there is enough that is being done about the teen drinking and drug problem that we have got in New Canaan compared to some of the other towns,” Jones said.
Jones said his purpose in addressing the commission was “to see what we could do going forward.” “Fortunately—he [Jones’s nephew] had a serious accident, spent a lot of time in the hospital and is going to fully recover, hopefully. But it really is about going forward. It is very easy to voice an opinion when something relates specifically to you. We all know it’s a problem. If you go to any of the events—ice hockey games o the Turkey Bowl. I am sure you all see it whether it is a lacrosse game or a hockey game or something else, and the school administration knows it, and it is a problem. He could have been paralyzed. He could have lost his life. Or it could be the child next week and they are pumping his stomach and guess what? It doesn’t happen, and we will lose somebody and we haven’t addressed it, so shame on us.”
Commission Chairman Stuart Sawabini thanked Jones for broaching the problem, and said that in terms of specific details on the status of the investigation into the party where his nephew was injured, police likely would need to be careful because it’s still ongoing.
With respect to underage drinking, “obviously the school has got a huge amount of contact with the kids and properly ought to be leading more than us,” Sawabini said.
“When it comes to prevention, the question is: What kind of resources do we have for prevention purposes? We are always called in once party is taking place, which often is too late.”
According to Jones, New Canaan has seen different parts of the community break down when it comes to taking accountability for the problem.
“The school administration thinks that it is more a parent and policing problem, the police think it is a parent and—I don’t want to put words in your mouth—think that it’s up to a parent to reinforce at home, and parents think if they are doing it on school property, how come the school administration cannot do something or why can’t the police get involved when they see it?” Jones said. “So I think there is just some confusion about accountability and we all should be doing it.”
Sawabini said it was important to keep the conversation surrounding underage drinking and suggested a possible “cross-community, Police Department-and-town” effort to “try to formulate more of a message.”
First Selectman Rob Mallozzi, in attendance at the meeting, noted that organizations such as New Canaan CARES and the Ram Council have taken major strides to educate New Canaan families and build a culture around alternatives to drinking among local youth.
On the night of the youth party in question, in fact, 100 Ram Council teens who had made a pledge not to drink or smoke or do drugs were at a sober party at the Country Club of New Canaan “dancing up a storm and having the time of their lives with their parents.”
“The fact is that there is a huge dichotomy of behavior” in New Canaan, Mallozzi said.