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NPD manpower increase helps department make major arrests, Chief says

Norwalk Police say they seized this gun Jan. 4 while executing a warrant at 21 Osbourne Ave. (Norwalk Police)

NORWALK, Conn. — Increased manpower has contributed to the recent spate of major arrests by warrants, Acting Norwalk Police Chief James Walsh said.

Just last week, police made five arrests stemming from long term investigations. Police made four arrests by warrant in December and cracked down on four smoke shops they said sold vape products to minors.

The most recent previous news release about an arrest by warrant was Nov. 10, the only one that month.

Faced with manpower shortages in late 2021, then-Chief Thomas Kulhawik transferred officers out of specialty units into patrol roles. The department is authorized for 181 sworn officers but was down to 166; the situation, not unique to Norwalk, also meant less there were less School Resource Officers. The dip was attributed to retirements and resignations.

In April, Lt. David O’Connor, president of Police Union Local 1727, said the summer season would be tough and the situation wouldn’t lighten up until September.

The department’s numbers have since swelled.

In May, Walsh said NPD had 170 sworn officers. At the December Police Commission meeting, Walsh said NPD had 176 sworn personnel and five patrol officer vacancies; on Monday, he said, “We are currently staffed at 178 sworn officers.”

Walsh acknowledged Friday that officers returning to regular duties factored into concluding investigations and making arrests.

“Yes, we have transferred officers back into Investigative divisions such as the Special Services Divisions and SVU. These transfers have increased the number of SROs, which increased in September, and the transfers to Special Services have contributed to the recent arrests for narcotics and weapons violations,” Walsh said.

Lightening COVID-19 restrictions had nothing to do with the increase in major arrests, Walsh said.

While the numbers look good, the department has lost experience through retirements and more are expected.

“A lot of people” will exit in 2023 “because their retirement plan kicks in and they must leave,” O’Connor said.

NPD hired 27 officers in 2022, Walsh said Monday. They’re “a mixture of lateral, comparative (out of state), and officers whom were required to go the Academy.”

Lateral officers, who are certified in Connecticut, step right into the job, O’Connor has said.

NPD’s sworn officers include at least seven who attended the police academy in 2022. They need at least a year on the job before they can go out on independent patrol duty, according to O’Connor.

Kiyaniah Simpkins, left, is sworn in as a Norwalk Police Officer on Wednesday as Christopher Spencer waits his turn. (Norwalk Police)

Two new officers were sworn in Thursday, according to the NPD Facebook page. Kiyaniah Simpkins and Christopher Spencer are already certified and will begin their field training.

Four officers were sworn in Dec. 27; two were headed to the Police Academy and two are already experienced officers, NPD said.

On the flip side, Lt. Bruce Hume was honored in a retirement ceremony Wednesday, the Facebook page states.

“We are currently conducting five background investigations for current and future openings,” Walsh said Monday. “We will be also conducting another round of interviews for applicants in the que to prepare for 2023 retirements.”

No officers are on administrative leave, Walsh said. One officer is on restricted duty; four are out on full time workmen’s compensation.

“We have five officers assigned to SRO,” Walsh said. “We also supplement with five additional security hires, one each assigned to  NHS and BMHS. The other three are assigned geographically to patrol the elementary and middle schools based on proximity to each other.”

Recent arrests

Firearms/narcotics arrests

A four-month investigation culminated Jan. 4 when the NPD Special Services executed a search warrant at 21 Osborne Ave., arrested three men and seized crack cocaine, drug paraphernalia, cash and a Taurus 9mm handgun with an extended magazine, a news release said.

Xavier Joseph, 21, of 21 Osborne Ave. (Norwalk Police)

Xavier Joseph, 21, of 21 Osborne Ave. was charged with:

  • Sale of Narcotics
  • Possession of Narcotics
  • Interfering with a Search Warrant
  • Possession of Drug Paraphernalia

In addition, Joseph had two Failure to Appear 1 and four Failure to Appear 2 arrest warrants that he was charged with, the release said.

Bond was $175,000.

Jermaine Joseph, 20, of 21 Osborne Ave. (Norwalk Police)

Jermaine Joseph, 20, of 21 Osborne Ave. was charged with:

  • Sale of Narcotics
  • Possession of Narcotics
  • Possession of Drug Paraphernalia

 

Bond was $25,000.

Isaiah Brown, 20 of 21 Osborne Ave. (Norwalk Police)

Isaiah Brown, 20, of Osborne Ave. was charged with:

  • Criminal Possession of a Firearm
  • Violation of a Protective Order Bond

 

Bond was $100,000.

Firearm arrest

On Jan. 3, Norwalk Special Services learned that Norwalk resident Kevin Felix, 21, was in Fairfield and arrested him there on an active felony arrest warrant, a news release said. The warrant stemmed from an Oct. 18 complaint of an armed person at Burnell Boulevard and Main Street.

Kevin Felix, 21, of 119 South Main St. (Norwalk Police)

Fairfield Police and Norwalk officers surveilled a convenience store on Post Road and quickly spotted Felix, the release said. When they approached him, he reached for a bag that was hanging off his shoulder; officers “gained control” of the suspect and found a loaded 357 Magnum handgun in the bag. It was turned over to Fairfield Police for the ongoing investigation.

Felix, of 119 South Main St. was charged with:

  • Carrying a Pistol without a permit
  • Breach of Peace

Bond was $150,000

Felix was out of jail on a $50,000 bond when he was arrested, the news release said. He had been arrested in October by Bridgeport Police on three firearms charges.

Larceny arrest

Jennifer Hernandez, 31. (Norwalk Police)

Jennifer Hernandez, 31, was arrested Jan. 3 after Detective Richard Ribisl learned she had stolen more than $58,000 from an elderly woman under her care, a news release said.

Ribisl’s investigation began Sept. 26 when the department received a forgery complaint, the release said. The victim’s bank account was overdrawn, and her daughter learned there were illegal withdrawals. Hernandez, who was employed as the elderly Norwalk resident’s caretaker for more than a decade, had made more than 100 payments to her credit card accounts from the victim’s bank accounts, Ribisl concluded.

Hernandez turned herself in on a warrant and was charged with Larceny First Degree, the release said. Bond was $100,000.

Manslaughter arrest

The driver of a vehicle involved in a deadly one-car accident Nov. 27 on Dr. Martin Luther King Drive was arrested Dec. 28, Norwalk Police said.

  • Arrested: Erles Ismael Aguilera, 25 of 14 Seaton Road, Stamford
  • Charges: Manslaughter 1st degree, Assault 2nd degree with a Motor Vehicle, Reckless Driving, Operating a Motor Vehicle Under the Influence of drugs and/or alcohol
  • Bond: $750,000

Oscar Valdovinos, 19, of Norwalk died in the accident, police said.

“The fatal car accident investigation was complex due to the severity of the crash and the processing of the scene and the vehicle involved,” Walsh said Friday. “Several search warrants were applied for by the Accident Reconstruction unit for the vehicle and the medical records of the operator. After the investigation was complete, an arrest warrant was applied for the arrest of the operator.”

Eugene Luini of Stamford, left; Teresa Martinez of Bridgeport, right. (Norwalk Police)

Sex trafficking arrests

Two people were arrested Dec. 26 and held on $1.5 million bond after a lengthy Norwalk Police investigation into alleged sex trafficking of Norwalk juveniles.

Teresa Martinez, 36 of 23 Freeman St., Bridgeport

  • Charges: Commercial Sex Abuse of a Minor, Trafficking in Persons and Risk of Injury to a Minor
  • Bond: $1,500,000

Eugene Luini, 60, of 73 Autumn Lane, Stamford.

  • Charges: Commercial Sex Abuse of a Minor and Risk of Injury to a Minor
  • Bond: $1,500,000

 

Detective Patrick English identified multiple victims and the two suspects in a nearly year-long investigation inspired by an anonymous tip to the Department of Children and Families, the release said.

 

 

Norwalk Police say they seized these items Dec. 21. (Norwalk Police)

Narcotics arrests

Norwalk Police say they seized these items Dec. 21. (Norwalk Police)

On Dec. 21, Norwalk Police teamed with the Connecticut State Police Southwest Statewide Narcotics unit to execute multiple search warrants and seize controlled substances, a news release said. Two Norwalk residents were arrested in the culmination of a four-month investigation.

According to police, seized were:

  • Approximately 39 grams of powder cocaine
  • Approximately 60 grams of crack cocaine
  • Approximately 166 grams of pure Fentanyl
  • Approximately 2 pounds of marijuana
  • Credit cards and various forms of Identification with fictitious identities
  • Narcotics packaging material, blenders, scales and various narcotics paraphernalia, 14 cell phones, numerous tablets, computer printers and lap top computers
  • A 2018 Jeep Cherokee
  • Approximately $3,569 in U.S. Currency

 

Sylvester Edward, 34, of 6 Leuvine St. (Norwalk Police)

Sylvester Edward, 34, of 6 Leuvine St., was charged with:

  • Two counts of Sale of Narcotic Substance
  • Conspiracy to commit/possess more than 5 oz. of cannabis
  • Possession of more than 5 oz. of cannabis
  • Two counts of possession of controlled substances
  • Use of drug paraphernalia
  • Interfering/resisting
  • Simple trespass
  • Interfering with a search
  • Illegal selling/manufacturing cannabis
  • Conspiracy to commit illegal selling/manufacturing cannabis
  • Risk of injury to a child
  • Forgery first degree
  • Operating a motor vehicle under suspension

 

Bond was $752,000.

“Edward currently has 11 other cases pending, and at the time of his arrest was out on $405,000 in Bonds. He has 23 prior arrests dating back to 2007 and is a 7 time convicted Felon,” the news release said.

The State Judicial website shows that Sylvester’s bond has been increased to $1.5 million.

Hilary Guillen, 28, of 6 Leuvine St. (Norwalk Police)

Hilary Guillen, 28, of 6 Leuvine St., was charged with:

  • Possession of more than 5 oz. of cannabis
  • Conspiracy to commit illegal selling/manufacturing cannabis
  • Forgery first degree
  • Risk of injury to a child

Bond was $150,000, according to the release.

The State Judicial website shows that Guillen’s bond was zero. She was released on a promise to appear.

 

Additional charges are expected as this is an ongoing investigation, the release said.

 

Smoke shop compliance checks lead to enforcement action

On Dec. 19, Norwalk Police Special Services and the SVU unit worked with underage community members to investigate five businesses, which all sold vape products to children under 21 years of age, without asking for identification or verifying their age, a news release said.

While conducting the investigation, officers turned away numerous minors who had entered the businesses expecting to buy tobacco products, the release said.

Cited were:

Mohegan Smoke Shop, 84 North Main St.

  • Isabelli Parusolo of  Bridgeport
  • Infraction – CGS. 53-344(b) illegal sale of tobacco to a minor (two counts)
  • Count 1- $300 fine. Count 2- $750 fine. Total $1,050.

 

Smokey Bear Smoke Shop, 43 North Main St.

  • Luis Zorilla Jr. of Norwalk
  • Infraction – CGS. 53-344(b) illegal sale of tobacco to a minor (two counts)
  • Count 1- $300 fine. Count 2- $750 fine. Total $1,050.

ZAZA Smoke Shop, 360 Connecticut Ave. Mujahed Al Rawhari of Corona, N.Y.

  • Infraction – CGS. 53-344(b) illegal sale of tobacco to a minor (two counts)
  • Count 1- $300 fine. Count 2- $750 fine. Total $1,050.

Vapewise, 201 Liberty Square

  • Abdelelah Said of Norwalk
  • Infraction – CGS. 53-344(b) Illegal sale of tobacco to a minor. $300 fine.

 

Norwalk Police also did smoke shop compliance checks in December 2021 and cited several businesses.

“There is no cyclical pattern to the investigation of the Smoke Shops for violations,” Walsh said Friday.

“The investigations are driven by resident complaints and the transfer of manpower back into these investigative roles.”

Updated, 12:32 p.m.: More information.

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