Raid sought drugs from Easton home

HCC Criminal Justice Faculty Offer Insights

DANIEL TEPFER and JOEL C. THOMPSON, CT Post
Article Last Updated: 05/21/2008 12:36:07 AM EDT


EASTON — The Sunday raid by a heavily armed police team on a Dogwood Drive home, where a Norwalk man was fatally shot, had targeted "2 small clear glass smoking pipes" and "crack cocaine in a tin box," according to a copy of the search warrant provided to the Connecticut Post.

Two warrants to search Ronald Terebesi's home at 91 Dogwood Drive were signed by Superior Court judges — one at 11:34 a.m. Sunday and another at 9:05 p.m. to extend the search later that day. The raid got under way shortly before 2:30 p.m. as police launched percussion grenades into the house to disorient occupants with bursts of noise and flashes of light.

The 11:34 a.m. search warrant, granting initial authority for the search-and-seizure operation, states that officers planned to look for the drugs and drug paraphernalia in the house. It was written by Easton Police Capt. James Candee.

None of the items specifically listed in the warrant have been found, sources said. The affidavits filed with the warrants were sealed by the judges and were not immediately available.

Meanwhile, an autopsy report Tuesday shows that Gonzalo Guizan, the 33-year-old man killed during the raid, died from multiple gunshots.

However, the identity of which officer — or officers — on the raid fired the fatal shots was not disclosed.

Guizan, of 79 East Ave. in Norwalk, died from wounds caused by multiple gunshots, according to the autopsy report released by the office of state Chief Medical
Examiner H. Wayne Carver II.

A spokesman for the medical examiner would not say whether the shots were fired from a single gun.

Guizan's death was ruled a homicide by the medical examiner.

Meanwhile, State Police investigating the incident released no new information on their probe Tuesday.

Lt. J. Paul Vance, the state police spokesman, was not available for comment, but his deputy, Trooper William Tate, said the state police Major Crime Squad is still reconstructing the events of the Sunday raid.

Tate said the "meticulous and scrutinized" investigation could take several weeks to complete, because it will combine autopsy results, forensic material taken from the scene and statements from the officers involved.

The findings will be turned over to State's Attorney Jonathan Benedict, who will decide if Guizan's shooting was justified.

The investigation, in part, is expected to focus on two officers deployed with the Southwest Regional Emergency Response Team, who apparently shot Guizan.

The regional team joined Easton police as the search warrant was executed at Terebesi's home.

Guizan, who allegedly charged at the team's lead officers as they entered the house, "physically encountered two of the police officers," according to state police. Those officers have been identified as Brian Weir, an eight-year veteran of the Trumbull Police Department, and Michael Sweeney, a seven-year veteran of the Monroe Police Department.

But state police on Tuesday would not say if the shots that hit Guizan were fired by one of the officers or both.

The two officers and Terebesi suffered minor injuries during the incident, but were released later Sunday from St. Vincent's Medical Center in Bridgeport.

Terebesi has not been charged with any crime in the wake of Sunday's raid.

Questioned about Weir's record, Trumbull Deputy Police Chief Glenn Byrnes said Tuesday that no complaint has ever been filed against him "related to any use of force."

Byrnes acknowledged what he characterized as "a small number of routine complaints" against Weir, but added they did not result in any disciplinary action against him.

Over his nine-year career, Weir has received several departmental citations, including a community service award and an award of merit for an "excellent arrest."

Aside from commendations for arrests made in the line of duty, Weir's personnel file contains an assortment of compliments, including for assistance with medical emergencies, helping to find a missing person and installation of an infant seat.

He also helped rescue a choking diner with the Heimlich maneuver at an Orange restaurant while he was volunteering at a fundraiser in 2002.

Monroe Police Chief John L. Salvatore said he would not release the personnel file of Sweeney in response to a Freedom of Information request filed by the Connecticut Post, based on advice from the State's Attorney's Office.

"The State's Attorney's Office prefers nothing be released until the investigation is completed," Salvatore said. "We want the investigation to be as fair and unbiased as possible."

But the chief described Sweeney as an "exceptional officer," who was named Monroe's officer of the year in 2006.

Sweeney has also received several commendations and has not been the subject of any citizen complaints, Salvatore said.

"The entire investigation is in the hands of the state police and the State's Attorney's Office," Police Chief John Solomon said Tuesday. "I can't comment because it is not yet clear what happened in the house, which officers fired the shots."

The chief said his officers continue to work on the authorized search to determine if there were drugs in Terebesi's house.

Easton detectives are still trying to determine who fired four shotgun blasts into the small gray house about 4 a.m. May 7, Solomon said. The shots shattered two front windows and a kitchen window and struck a rear door.

"Someone got out of a car and fired the shots. It was not a drive-by shooting," Solomon said.

Meanwhile, town officials said Terebesi owes $4,280 in property taxes on the house that were due in January, plus $128 in interest for not paying them.

Records show he bought the one-story house with two-car garage in 1999 for $180,000 from the estate of Eleanor Skidd.

Drew Clark, who lives across the street, said Terebesi did not live in the house for several years after buying it, but began to reside there about two years ago.

Solomon said police have learned that Terebesi lived for a while with a girlfriend in Trumbull, and sometime in the recent past moved to the house in Easton.

Neighbors said they know next to nothing about Terebesi, even though he has owned the house for nearly a decade.

Fred Mauer, who lives a couple of houses away on Dogwood Drive, described Terebesi as a "loner."

Commenting before some details of the Dogwood Drive search-and-seizure warrant became known, several law-enforcement experts said Tuesday that deploying a heavily armed police squad team for a search, particularly when guns or other weapons may be involved, is a common strategy.

Such force is "standard practice," according to James McCabe, 43, a criminal justice professor at Sacred Heart University in Fairfield. McCabe, who lives in New York, regularly participated in raids over 20 years on New York City's police force. "Every law-enforcement entity needs to have, or should have, a special unit that handles that kind of situation," said John Sopchak, assistant professor of psychology at Housatonic Community College in Bridgeport, who previously served on the Milford Police Department's Special Weapons and Tactics Team.

"Small towns kind of have to work together," because they don't have the same resources as larger cities to field their own emergency teams, said McCabe.

To have a judge sign off on a search warrant, the officers had to have a "high degree of confidence that a gun is in there" or another similar threat, he said.

"There is no such thing as being overprotective. The consideration is 4-to-1 — four cops to every one assailant or combatant or suspect," said Vern Krill, a criminal justice professor at HCC. Officers are "highly professionally trained" for these types of situations, said Krill, 56, a former police officer and undercover detective in Shelton.

During Sopchak's time with the Milford SWAT team — from 1977 to 1987 — they would endure rigorous monthly training exercises, he said. He was forced to retire after he broke his leg during a training exercise, he said.

Police officers are also at a disadvantage heading into a potential confrontation because they are trained to react to the suspect, not to make the first move, Krill said. "You've got that potential there of somebody getting killed," he said. Officers in the emergency detail also have a responsibility to fellow officers and "they are legally authorized to use deadly force" if the situation warrants, he said. "For all police officers, public safety is No. 1 and officer safety should be included in that," said Sopchak.

Keila Torres and Susan Silvers contributed to this report.