Danbury cop cleared of two shootings set to return to work after two years of paid leave


DANBURY – The town police officer who shot and injured a Bristol man in July 2019 – seven months after he shot a Danbury resident – is expected to return to work next month after more than two years of paid administrative leave.

Alexander Relyea was exonerated last year after firing his service weapon at Aaron Bouffard in the Old Ridgebury and Reserve Roads area on July 3, 2019.

Months earlier, Relyea – who has been with the Danbury Police Department since 2014 – shot Paul Arbitelle three times during a confrontation at Danbury’s Glen Apartments on December 29, 2018. He was also cleared of any wrongdoing in this shootout.

Bouffard and Paul Arbitelle were allegedly armed with knives when they were shot, police said.

Relyea was set to resume her active patrol duties after her second exoneration in March 2020, but instead remained on paid administrative leave – a decision according to Mayor Joe Cavo has been left to Police Chief Patrick Ridenhour.

“We have allowed the leader to decide what he does for his department and what is best for his staff,” Cavo said. “These are huge events in a person’s life, and I think he just gave (Relyea) time.”

It is not common “under any circumstance” for an officer to be on administrative leave for such a long period of time, but it is “not uncommon either,” said John DeCarlo, professor of criminal justice at the University. of New Haven and former Branford Police Chief.

Not only could there be a number of factors at play, but an officer involved in two shootings in a matter of months – when most go their entire careers without firing their service-in-service guns – could “provoke the administration of” ‘a department … to take their time to do a very careful assessment,’ he said.

The chief declined to say why Relyea remained on leave – describing it as an “internal staff matter”, but Ridenhour said it was his call.

“It was mainly my decision, but I am taking part in various sources,” Ridenhour said, adding that those sources included Relyea and the police union.

The chef said a process was underway to get Relyea back to work “very soon”.

His return might only be a few weeks away, according to Cavo.

“I understand he will return to work at the beginning of October to be at the station,” said the mayor.

Relyea would not immediately return to active patrol duty, as he would first need to be briefed on the latest policies, procedures and training in the department.

“There have been a lot of things he missed in terms of training, so he’s going to have to spend some time doing it,” Cavo said.

In addition to catching up on new standard operating procedures, the 35-year-old will need to be trained in the use of the department’s new body cameras.

“There is training that everyone has to go through, so he’s going to get up to speed and we’ll work from there,” Ridenhour said. “We are looking forward to working with him and bringing him back into the fold to some extent. “

The shootings

In Arbitelle’s fatal shooting in December 2018, Relyea fired her gun after another officer made an “ineffective” attempt to use his stun gun on the 45-year-old, police said. the state. Officers had repeatedly asked Arbitelle to drop her knife, police said. Arbitelle has been hit three times.

Arbitelle’s 74-year-old mother Linda Arbitelle was inadvertently shot in the abdomen in the incident. She survived, but her son succumbed to his injuries.

Stamford State Attorney Richard Colangelo determined that Relyea’s use of force against Arbitelle was “both reasonable and justified in the circumstances”.

This exemption was announced on July 10, 2019 – seven days after Relyea shot Bouffard, the subject of a second investigation into a shooting involving an officer.

Authorities said Bouffard was carrying two knives when Relyea and other officers encountered him in a field near Reserve Road after a two-hour manhunt on the morning of July 3, 2019.

Danbury and State Police were looking for the 31-year-old after receiving multiple 911 calls about an assault at the Midwestern Connecticut Council of Alcoholism Rehab Center on Old Ridgebury Road at around 8:40 a.m.

Employees told police Bouffard fought customers and staff before taking two knives from the establishment’s kitchen and leaving the property.

The search for the man wielding a knife ended around 10:45 a.m. when officers found Bouffard in a nearby field and Relyea fired several shots, hitting him in the thigh, pelvis and finger.

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Bouffard reportedly ignored orders to drop the knives he was holding and “continued to advance towards the officers,” according to the Connecticut State Police investigation into the shooting.

Bouffard then pleaded guilty to third degree assault and first degree threats resulting from the MCCA incident and was sentenced to jail in March 2020, according to court records.

He is being held at MacDougall-Walker Correctional Facility in Suffield with a maximum release date of May 28, 2022, according to the State Department of Correction.

The same month Bouffard was sentenced, Relyea was cleared of the July 2019 shooting after Danbury State Attorney Stephen Sedensky determined the officer had acted appropriately and the shooting was justified .

Lawsuits

There are two pending federal lawsuits against Relyea, which Cavo says have nothing to do with the officer’s extended administrative leave status.

Linda Arbitelle filed a lawsuit against Relyea in Bridgeport U.S. District Court in December 2019, claiming he used excessive force and took unwarranted and illegal action during the shooting that injured her and killed her son.

She claims that Relyea did not have to shoot her gun and “did not use less than lethal force that was readily available”.

Bouffard filed a lawsuit in New Haven U.S. District Court against Relyea and the city of Danbury in August 2020 for alleged civil rights violations.

He claims that there was “no need or justification for the use of such lethal force in the circumstances present at the time” of the incident of July 2019 – an allegation which the city and Relyea have denied. December 2020 in the responses to Bouffard’s complaint.

Bouffard claims to have been at least 25 feet, with his back to Relyea, when the officer shot him. He also alleges that Relyea shot him when he knew he was not armed with a gun.

Bouffard accuses Relyea and the city of being “jointly responsible for the injuries inflicted on her”, as well as for the “unreasonable and excessive” use of force by Relyea.

He is suing the city for allowing Relyea to be on duty despite the active investigation into Arbitelle’s fatal shooting at the time.

Bouffard asserts that the city “authorized … Relyea to be on duty with a loaded weapon while the investigation into her recent use of lethal force was still ongoing, failed to provide her with retraining, failed to not assessed his propensity for murderous violence, nor has he failed to discipline him or reassign him to tasks in which he would no longer have the opportunity to kill.

The City of Danbury not only denied that Relyea “had ever used excessive and unreasonable lethal force”, but that her “record of service on July 3, 2019 was in any way inappropriate or that he needed ‘retraining, evaluation and / or discipline. “

Bouffard seeks compensatory and punitive damages from both Relyea and the city, while Arbitelle seeks compensatory, punitive and treble damages, as well as any other relief deemed appropriate by the court.

Relyea’s attorneys in both trials – Simsbury’s attorneys Elliot B. Spector and David C. Yale – could not be reached for comment.

Julia Perkins contributed to this report.


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