Year in Review / Misconduct, heroism and hate defined 2017 for Westport police
WESTPORT — You can tell a lot about a town from its police news.
In Westport in 2017, stories ranged from police misconduct to teen drug use to hate speech to everyday heroism and even the downright strange. This year’s top police stories showed the many sides of a town.
New Haven detective Daniel Conklin was set to be sworn in as a Westport officer in November when town residents caught word he had been accused of tampering with evidence and defying department policy in three instances while an officer in New Haven.
Residents lobbied town officials against Conklin’s hiring and, soon after, Conklin rescinded his resignation from the New Haven department and returned to his old post.
In other news of possible police wrongdoing, the town’s former police chief and a Bradley Street resident, Alfred Fiore, was charged with driving while intoxicated following a June car crash on Compo Road South.
At least a dozen flyers containing neo-Nazi and white supremacist content were left in the North Avenue area in May. The flyer, entitled “You Must Act Now,” said that “our nation is being destroyed,” listed several white supremacy websites, and contained a photo of a Nazi-commissioned sculpture from 1937 titled “Readiness” in German.
In addition, racist flyers were found on the Weston-Westport border in February. Police were unable to identify the source of the flyers in either incident.
A Black Lives Matter banner hung outside the Unitarian Church of Westport was ripped down twice between August and September. The banner was cut down from the metal frame on which it hung in August and placed up again on Sept. 17 only to be ripped down again in late September.
“We’re going to keep hanging banners because obviously the fact that it’s being taken down means that it’s needed,” said the Rev. John Morehouse, the church’s senior minister, after the second incident.
As of Sept. 24 police said the vandalism was still under investigation.
Teens acting out
Staples High School students Cameron Cleary and an unnamed, then-juvenile student were allegedly caught using cocaine in the bathroom during school in February, leading to the arrest of both teens.
The pair’s illegal actions were unearthed by school administrators who called the police and said Cleary admitted to selling cocaine to the other student before the two snorted some of the drug together.
Both students were charged with possession of narcotics and illegal possession of drugs in a school with Cleary having the added charge of sale of a controlled substance and the other student additionally charged with failure to keep narcotics in the original container.
When a car crashed and flipped on Post Road East in July, a trio of bystanders burst into action and rescued the 61-year-old man who’d been behind the wheel.
Scott Luciani, an auto mechanic at Vautrin Auto Services on Post Road East, said he, Paul Szgedy, and an unnamed Bridgeport man heard the crash, saw smoke coming out of the car and ran across the street to help.
They pulled the driver from the car as it was filling with smoke and held pressure where he was bleeding to keep him conscious. Police arrived on the scene and the man was transported to Norwalk Hospital where he was reported to have sustained serious injuries but be in stable condition.
A Bridgeport man, Anthony Frank, falsely told officers in May he had been stabbed in the leg at Burying Hill Beach, police said. An investigation by town police found a bloody knife in his car and deemed his story inconsistent and unlikely.
In September, Frank turned himself in to police and was charged with second-degree falsely reporting an incident.
In other fabricated incidents, a Trumbull man claimed he had been kidnapped in an attempt to dodge a drunk-driving charge in June, police said.
Stephen Moran was pulled over on Cross Highway and told officers a man broke into his home, knocked him out, kidnapped him, and stole his vehicle. Detectives determined his story was false and that Moran had been driving above the influence at the time he told the story.
He was charged with operating under the influence of drugs/alcohol, evading responsibility, interfering with an officer, and second-degree falsely reporting an incident.