Police: Fire alarm was unrelated to Le

Lewis speaks at a press conference about Annie Le on Sept. 16.
Lewis speaks at a press conference about Annie Le on Sept. 16. Photo by Harrison Korn.

The fire alarm that sounded at 10 Amistad St. on the day Annie Le GRD ’13 was murdered had nothing to do with her death, New Haven Police Department Chief James Lewis said Monday.

In a wide-ranging interview in his office at police headquarters, Lewis said authorities have uncovered no evidence to support the theory that the alarm was set off by the person who strangled Le to death or by an accomplice. The special agent in charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation in Connecticut, Kimberly Mertz, told reporters two weeks ago that the alarm was triggered by steam from a laboratory hood. The steam may have been released by a person in the lab, Mertz said.

But Lewis said “fire alarms go off in buildings all over the place” and, he added, “I suspect in labs it’s not unusual at all.”

The chief also said that Le’s accused killer, Yale animal lab technician Raymond Clark III, is likely to remain the only person arrested in connection with her murder.

Still, Lewis cautioned that leads from any of the 300 pieces of physical evidence authorities have gathered could lead investigators in new directions. He added that detectives and state forensics lab investigators are still working on the case and may continue to do so for some time.

“You never know where physical evidence might take you,” he said. “Even at trial something may pop up that we don’t know about. But at this point we don’t anticipate any other arrests.”

Whether or not the case goes to trial is still anyone’s guess; after all, Clark has not yet entered a plea. Lewis, for his part, said the legal proceedings could drag on for months.

“There’ll be the standard hearings, but you could have lots of delays,” he said. “I mean this thing may not go to trial for a year or so. There’s just no telling.”

Lewis said he was not surprised that it took five days for law enforcement officers — assisted by bloodhounds from the Connecticut State Police — to find Le’s body.

The research facility at 10 Amistad St. where Le’s remains were discovered last Sunday is a “unique building,” Lewis said. He added that the dogs had a difficult time finding scents of Le because of chemicals in the basement of the building and because “the air flow systems are different than in most buildings.”

Police tracked every person who had access to the basement until they narrowed in on Clark as the lead suspect, Lewis said.

Lewis also revealed for the first time that dogs were not allowed to enter certain areas of the basement because of ongoing experiments involving animals in those rooms. Instead, they were searched by hand, slowing down the investigation, though it was ultimately a dog who found Le’s body in a mechanical chase.

But Lewis would not say that Yale could have done more to prevent the tragedy.

“I think if you did a comparison with most buildings in this town or any town, you’d find a lot of buildings don’t have any surveillance cameras, don’t have any ID cards, really are pretty wide open,” he said. “You could always say Yale could add 10 more cameras, but really to make that jump you’ve got to compare it to any place else. And I think that’s a really secure building compared to any other place. There really is no environment you can make where nothing would ever happen.


  • james

    good point chief. most buildings do have zero protection. Although I really do think that Clark’s supervisor should have noticed he was intimidating people.

  • evan

    Police should thoroughly investigate the matter before dismissing it altogether. What’s the chance that the fire alarm goes off on the very day of the murder? ALL labs have ventilating hoods and any experiments that involved releasing any sort of steam, gas, or odor are to be conducted under the hood. That’s regular basic safety protocol of all labs especially university labs. Unless it was a huge accident that threaten everyone’s safety, I can’t imagine the need to empty the entire building. Thus, the alarm is very questionable.

  • Annie

    Excuse me? Yale managed to dictate to law enforcement officers where they could and could not search using dogs in the building? I’m absolutely speechless and disgusted. Yale has to take a larger burden of responsibility for this tragedy rather than hiding behind the observation that Annie’s death was probably unpreventable.

  • Jagdhish

    The question was not whether Yale’s security measures were comparable to regional norms. The Chief failed to answer what extra measures may have been useful in deterring or more accurately recording such incidents. This should be a wake up call to Yale and other educational and work places.

  • Jodie

    I work in a medical research center and our fire alarms go off at least once every other week or so (and sometimes more often). It would not surprise me if it’s unconnected.

    The only way to prevent things like this is to have armed officers patrolling each building and a monitored video security system…and even then bad people will still do evil things. It’s very hard to weed them out.

  • grd’10

    Unless you have an armed officer in every room, and a camera in every room. Neither of which will ever happen. The Med School cut security recently, now we have security aimlessly circling Cedar Street near the Amistad Building. Will that prevent crimes inside the buildings? Or even on the street? In a word no. It’s simply a little placebo by Yale until the hysteria dies down. The only change that would have significance would be actually having to pass an officer and show an ID to enter a building. Have armed officers patrolling buildings, streets and lots. Changing the culture to not prop doors open, or let anyone without an ID in behind you. Nothing could have stopped this, but nothing will change either. We” get the appearance of security with no real increase in it. Security costs money, the first thing cut in budgets.