A New Canaan man locked himself in the bedroom of a Seminary Street apartment and refused to leave, even after firefighters told him that the residence needed to be evacuated in order to clear it of a harmful gas, according to a police affidavit.
Firefighters found the man and his girlfriend inside the apartment’s bedroom after responding to a neighbor’s report of smoke and a fire alarm that had been going off for 20-plus minutes, New Canaan Police Officer Giancarlo Vincenzi said in the sworn affidavit. The incident unfolded at about 9:18 p.m. on April 15 (a Friday), he said.
A New Canaan Fire Department captain, after forcing his way inside the apartment because no one responded when he “knocked on the front door of the residence several times … observed a very young child slumped over in a high chair alone,” and a piece of chicken burning on a kitchen stovetop, according to Vincenzi’s affidavit, which forms the basis of an arrest warrant application later signed by a judge, charging the man and woman with risk of injury to a child.
Firefighters then found the man and woman in the bedroom (she later told police they hadn’t heard the fire alarm or smelled the smoke).
Though the woman left the bedroom and joined police outside the apartment when asked, the man stayed there. His girlfriend told police “she was unsure why he was refusing to leave the bedroom,” and later re-entered the residence where police had “knocked on the bedroom door several times” and the man “refused to open the door,” Vincenzi said in the arrest warrant application.
The girlfriend “began asking [the man] to open the bedroom door” and “used the bedroom key to ultimately unlock the bedroom door,” the affidavit said.
“Once we gained entry to the bedroom, [the man] became extremely agitated” and “yelling at police,” Vincenzi said in the affidavit, “ordering us to leave him alone in the bedroom.”
“Sgt. [David] Payne and this affiant explained to [the man] that it was unsafe to remain in the residence, as the air may not be safe to breathe at the moment,” the affidavit said. “[The man] stated that he was not going to leave the residence despite the potentially unsafe air quality.” Payne remained in the bedroom with the man while firefighters cleared it of carbon dioxide, the affidavit said.
It added, “Sgt. Payne stated that [the man] eventually stated that he had placed a piece of chicken on the stove to cook for his daughter. [The man] told Sgt. Payne that he started cooking the chicken and went to lay down in bed, and he accidentally fell asleep. [He] stated that [his girlfriend] was unaware that he had placed the food on the stove. [The man] informed Sgt. Payne that he had a few alcoholic beverages that evening, prior to our arrival. It should be noted that upon entering into [his] bedroom, this affiant observed a clear plastic bag on the floor filled with several green leafy buds, that based on this affiant’s training and experience, believe to be marijuana.”
Vincenzi signed the sworn affidavit on April 17. The prosecutor’s office signed it April 25 and a state Superior Court judge on April 27. At about 1:50 p.m. day, police served the arrest warrant on the man at his place of work, New Canaan High School.
According to a police report, he “resisted efforts by arresting officers to handcuff him and did not comply with verbal commands” before eventually being handcuffed and taken into custody. Police brought an additional charge of interfering with an officer/resisting arrest.
Asked for the man’s employment history with New Canaan Public Schools, district officials said he became an Assistant Varsity Football Coach in August 2021, a Supervisory Aide at NCHS on Sept. 14, 2021, a World Language Technology Aide on Nov. 29, 2021 and a HS and World Language Technology Assistant on March 28. The man remains employed by the public schools, district officials confirmed.
News of the charges and apprehension at the high school spread quickly throughout town, with many people on this news site and on social media questioning the police department’s reasons for handcuffing the man and apprehending him at NCHS during school hours, while his girlfriend was allowed to turn herself in (at 6 p.m. on April 27).
As of Monday afternoon, more than $18,000 had been raised through an online fundraising campaign, from 285 separate donations.
The man was released on $55,000 bond, the woman on $50,000 bond, and both are scheduled to appear Wednesday in state Superior Court.
According to the police affidavit, the woman told police that she and the man “were in the bedroom just ‘hanging out’ ” and that her two-year-old child “was also just ‘hanging out’ by herself in the highchair eating and watching a video on the laptop that was propped up in font of her.”
The girlfriend told police that “they were not asleep in the bedroom,” Vincenzi said in the police affidavit.
After the “New Canaan Fire Department cleared the residence of the smoke and reset the fire alarm,” officials found “that it was safe to return to the residence,” the affidavit said. The woman and toddler were evaluated by New Canaan Emergency Medical Services and “refused to be transported to Norwalk Hospital” while the man “refused to be evaluated by EMS,” the affidavit said.
That night, at about 10:45 p.m., Vincenzi “spoke with DCF [state Department of Children and Families] care line worker Elisa Bannon and made a verbal referral,” according to his affidavit. “Bannon stated that DCF removed [the juvenile] from [the man and woman] approximately 1 year ago because Juvenile/Victim 1 was born with marijuana in her system.”
Vincenzi said in the arrest warrant application that based on the facts and circumstances of the incident, that the man “willfully left his child … unattended in a separate room, subsequently leaving the child helpless while smoke filled the residence and the fire alarm was activated for at least twenty minutes; during which time [he] was preoccupied to the point that he was unaware of either the smoke or the fire alarm.”