Crown Street verged on a riot early Sunday morning when a boozy brawl left eight New Haven police officers needing medical attention, nine people arrested and a police dog in harm’s way.
Just before 2 a.m., police tried to disperse drunken clubgoers as they left the nightclubs, but part of the crowd turned on the officers and attacked them. NHPD spokesman Joe Avery said the officers were only able to subdue the crowd when reinforcements arrived. The incident is the second large fight in the area in the last three months, which has prompted Ward 3 Alderwoman Jackie James-Evans to propose a law that would ban underage patrons from New Haven’s clubs.
As 2 a.m. approached, at least eight NHPD officers stood outside the bars of New Haven’s lively Crown Street and braced for the surge of intoxicated people that would soon be headed their way, some of whom would be looking for a fight, according to the police report.
Sure enough, as people congregated on the streets, a fight broke out between two men at 212 Crown St., outside the clubs Static and Hula Hanks. Police made their way through the crowd toward the fight, trying to maintain some semblance of order in what they described as utter chaos, according to the police report.
Because of the large number of intoxicated people inundating the street, Officer J. Kaczor said in his report that the small detail of officers had moved close together as it attempted to clear the street.
When Officer Roy Davis attempted to break up the fight, one of the unruly men, Ross Massey, 29, of Wallingford, Conn., attacked him. After Massey started yelling, flailing his arms and spitting at the police, officers say he tackled Davis to the ground, jumped on him and started hitting him in the stomach and legs. According to the police report, Officer Chris Fennessy tried to help Davis, but Massey tossed him aside and continued to pummel Davis as he lay on the ground, pinned between the curb and a parked car. Kaczor then started to step in to help Davis but was attacked from behind by Massey’s friend Timothy Heffernan.
Heffernan had jumped on Kaczor’s back and was trying to hold him back while shouting that Massey was not fighting the police. After a violent struggle that lasted just over a minute, the police tasered and then detained Heffernan.
Meanwhile, Davis was still trapped under Massey, who Davis said was trying to choke him. As Davis reached behind for his baton, he realized his belt had come undone. While simultaneously trying to keep his gun out of Massey’s reach, he searched the ground for his baton, found it, and pushed Massey off of him. The police were then able to pull Massey away and detain him, though he continued to struggle and even broke the right hand of one of the officers who pulled him off.
“He never stopped fighting,” Davis wrote of Massey in his police report.
While the police were busy subduing and arresting the two men, a crowd had surrounded them and several other fights broke out nearby. Though the police tried to disperse the onlookers by spraying mace, the crowd remained in place and the situation took a turn for the worse when clubgoers started throwing bottles from the Temple Street parking complex at the police several stories below.
The downtown district police supervisor called for all available officers in the entire city to rush to Crown Street to control the situation. The chaos was finally contained and the crowd dispersed when state police showed up, with a police dog, named Trooper Neo. Confronted by the dog, most left the scene, but one man tried to kick Neo and was arrested.
Though it remains to be seen whether the city will restrict who goes to nightclubs, the city will soon change who guards them. Currently, clubs choose the police officers that patrol their clubs on busy weekend nights. That will change starting March 1 — under the new system, the police department will assign which cops provide security at the clubs. NHPD Chief Lewis has said the old system makes for potential security problems because officers would be responsible to individual bars, not the police department, in emergencies.
All together, eight officers were taken to the hospital, though none sustained major injuries. Police arrested nine people on a range of misdemeanors and felonies, including assaulting a police officer.
There are an average of 714 assaults against police officers a year in Connecticut, according to the Connecticut Uniform Crime Reporting Program.