By Christine Dempsey, Lisa Backus, Jesse Leavenworth, and Ben Lambert
The Register Citizen
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BRISTOL, Conn. — State police say law enforcement may have been lured to a Redstone Hill Road home Wednesday night where two local officers were killed and another was wounded in an apparent ambush.
Sgt. Dustin DeMonte, 35, and Officer Alex Hamzy, 34, were killed in the shooting, which happened around 10:30 p.m. Wednesday, Bristol Police Chief Brian Gould said. Bristol Police Officer Alec Iurato, 26, survived the shooting and was released from the hospital Thursday morning after undergoing surgery, state police said.
Police said the officers were responding to a 911 call about an apparent dispute between two brothers, who have been identified as Nicholas Brutcher, 35, and Nathan Brutcher, 32. Nicholas Brutcher was fatally shot at the scene, while his brother was wounded and taken to Saint Francis Hospital, state police said. They said it appeared the shooting was planned.
“Preliminary information appears to point to the 911 call being a deliberate act to lure law enforcement to the scene,” state police said in a statement.
Police have not released a potential motive for the incident and have not said who shot the Brutcher brothers. Police also did not say what charges Nathan Brutcher faces. Neither of the brothers have pending criminal cases or prior convictions listed on the state judicial website.
The shooting happened at a home in the 300-block of Redstone Hill Road, said Connecticut State Police Sgt. Christine Jeltema, whose agency is investigating the deadly exchange of gunfire.
“Our community has been rocked. Our police department has been rocked. To the members of the Bristol Police Department, I mourn with you. We will get through this horrific event,” Gould said.
The initial series of shots included about 30 rounds, fired over the course of six to seven seconds, as heard in the video footage from a nearby apartment complex. About a minute later, a single shot is heard. About 15 seconds later, more than 20 shots ring out, seemingly muffled or farther away. A little more than 30 seconds later, two more shots are heard.
Danny Rodriguez, who lives nearby, said he was outside when the shooting started. Rodriguez said he saw the first officers arrive and two of them go down.
He said he heard a woman screaming, “you (expletive) killed them!”
Robyn Lauzon, who lives around the corner on Birch Road, said she was awoken by the gunfire.
“It was horrible,” she said. “I heard three rounds of 9 or 10 gunshots each.”
Lauzon said she first didn’t know if someone was knocking on her door, but quickly realized it was gunfire.
“It was scary as hell,” she said. “And the sirens were crazy. It was like a war zone.”
Mike Ghiroli, who lives nearby on Redstone Hill Road, said he heard the gunshots in bursts.
“If I had to guess, I’d say it was 30 shots,” Ghiroli said. He stuck his head outside his apartment window to get a better look.
“The whole area smelled like gunpowder,” he said. “I said, ‘I’m not gonna go out there right away!”
Another nearby resident said the gunfire sounded like it was coming from an assault weapon. The Birch Road woman, who did not want to be identified, said she was in bed but awake when she suddenly heard several loud “pops.”
“My dog was even barking, it was 10 shots and then a pause followed by 10 more,” the woman said. “It was loud and quick. It wasn’t pop, it was pop, pop, pop, pop, pop.”
Hours later, officers gathered outside Bristol Hospital in the early-morning darkness to see off DeMonte. A long line of police cars followed the medical examiner’s truck as it headed to the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Farmington.
Dozens of officers from all over the state then gathered near the scene of the deadly shooting, waiting to honor Hamzy. A giant flag hung over the road, dwarfing the officers below.
Gould gently patted the parked medical examiner’s truck as he walked by, as if saying goodbye to his fallen officer. The truck soon began to move, with Bristol police walking behind it. More officers lined both sides of the street and saluted as the truck slowly passed in a motorcade that grew to be a mile long.
Gov. Ned Lamont directed all U.S. and state flags to be lowered to half-staff in honor of the two officers.
“The loss of two officers from the Bristol Police Department who were killed in the line of duty while responding to an emergency call of domestic violence is a senseless tragedy, and my prayers are with their families, loved ones and fellow officers,” Lamont said in a written statement. “I also ask the residents of Connecticut to keep in their prayers a third officer who was shot while responding to this emergency and is currently in the hospital with serious injuries.”
“This is a devastating reminder of the dangers that police officers face every day to protect our families and neighbors from all kinds of situations. These officers are heroes and will always be remembered for the honorable service they provided to their town and their state,” he said.
Mike Lawlor, former undersecretary for criminal justice policy and planning in the administration of Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, said the incident was “eerily similar” to the slaying of Master Police Officer Peter Lavery, killed while responding to a domestic violence call in Newington in 2004.
Lawlor said Lavery was “ambushed without warning by (a) heavily armed murderer,” describing the slaying of the Bristol officers as “unbelievable and tragic news.”
The criminology professors at Central Connecticut State University, where DeMonte graduated in 2010, are “struggling to make sense of this tragedy,” CCSU President Zulma R. Toro said.
“He served his community as a school resource officer at Greene-Hills and West Bristol schools and earned several awards from the police department, including the Officer of the Year award in 2019 and the Silver Star,” Toro said. “It is heart-breaking to see such a promising career cut short in the blink of an eye.”
DeMonte’s resume also includes his work as advisor for the Bristol Police Explorer and Youth Cadet programs, Gould said. He was hired in 2012.
He and his wife have a baby on the way, the chief said.
Hamzy was hired two years later. He also received letters of commendations and recognition, Gould said. He was a member of the regional SWAT team, known as the Central Region Emergency Response Team. Like DeMonte, he was a cadet adviser.
Iurato also is a SWAT officer. He was hired in 2018 and has a bachelor of arts degree in Government, Law and National Security, Gould said.
The deadly shooting comes less than a week after a New Haven police officer was shot and wounded while investigating a car crash, according to authorities. New Haven police said Officer Chad Curry was shot in the ear and shoulder around 1:30 a.m. last Friday, but was released from the hospital later that morning. The suspected gunman, Jose Claudio, was later apprehended. He was arraigned in state Superior Court in New Haven earlier this week.
Family violence incidents are often the most dangerous for police officers, according to Liza Andrews from the Connecticut Coalition Against Domestic Violence.
“We are deeply saddened by the tragic loss of Sgt. Dustin DeMonte and Officer Alex Hamzy, and the serious injury to Officer Alec Iurato,” she said in a statement. “Our thoughts and prayers are with the family, friends, and colleagues of these brave officers.”
“No matter the surrounding circumstances, domestic violence calls are the most dangerous calls that law enforcement respond to on a daily basis,” she said. “They put their lives at risk every day to help protect victims and we are forever grateful for their commitment. Members of law enforcement are our partners in ending this public health crisis and we stand united with them today as they mourn the loss of their brothers.”
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