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State police name man who was shot and officer who fired gun

By Karin Crompton

Publication: The Day

Published August 26. 2011 4:00AM   Updated August 26. 2011 10:33AM
Suspect hospitalized in critical condition

New London - State police identified the man who was shot Wednesday by city police and the officer who fired his gun.

Curtis Cunningham, 27, of 432 Shelton Ave., New Haven, was listed in critical condition at Yale-New Haven Hospital. Police spokesman Lt. J. Paul Vance said Cunningham underwent surgery at Yale-New Haven Hospital Wednesday night; he was first taken to Lawrence & Memorial Hospital in New London before being airlifted to Yale.

The New London officer involved is Officer Thomas Northup, according to state police. Northup, a 3½-year veteran of the department, will be temporarily assigned to administrative duty pending the completion of the investigation, state police said.

Cunningham was shot by city police after allegedly stealing an ice truck from a liquor store at 207 Montauk Ave. around 4:30 p.m. Wednesday.

Police have not recovered a gun from the scene, according to Vance.

Vance said police broadcast a report about the stolen truck to all New London officers. An officer who was taking a complaint from a citizen at the CVS Pharmacy spotted the truck as it made an abrupt left turn onto Jefferson Avenue and radioed in to dispatch that the truck had crashed.

When officers approached, Cunningham was standing up in the cab of the truck. Police ordered Cunningham to show his hands, Vance said, and Cunningham failed to comply. Cunningham then made an "overt movement," Vance said, at which point officers fired.

The package store was the driver's last stop, said the store's owner, who asked not to be identified. The package store owner said he was afraid people will associate the store with criminal activity.

The driver and a helper stopped in and asked if the package store needed any ice. The owner said he asked for six sleeves. As the two men walked out of the store, the owner walked the length of his counter to plug in his ice cooler and then returned to his chair near the front entrance.

He could see through the store's side window that the truck was gone.

"Why did they move the truck?" he asked his wife.

A couple of minutes later, the owner walked outside to ask the driver what he was waiting for.

"He said, 'Oh, somebody took the truck,' " said the package store owner, adding that the driver had called the police from his cell phone.

The truck most likely traveled the short distance up Willets Avenue to its intersection with Ocean Avenue, then took a right onto Ocean and drove about a half mile to where Ocean Avenue ends at Bank Street.

It appears the truck turned right onto Bank Street and tipped over as it made the quick jog left onto Jefferson Avenue.

Michael Williams had just walked into his house, located on Jefferson across the street from CVS, when he heard the truck crash. The collision of truck onto pavement shook the house, said Williams, who said he turned to his wife and asked if there was an earthquake.

Williams and his wife ran outside to find police officers pointing their guns at the truck's cab, hollering, "Let me see your hands!" One officer was kneeling and another was on top of the cab.

"They said it three times: let me see your hands," Williams said. "And the one kneeling down, he just started firing - doomp, doomp, doomp - he fired three times the first time, and two more times."

Williams said he grabbed his wife to get her out of the street. Cunningham was in the truck for about five minutes after being shot, Williams said, and police continued to shout to him to show his hands. Police broke the front windshield to get the man out, Williams said.

"They busted that windshield out and they bum rushed the truck," said Williams, adding that authorities dragged the man out of the front and onto a stretcher.

The Eastern District Major Crime Squad has been assigned to the investigation.

The last shooting involving city police was May 28, when three officers shot an armed man on Ocean Avenue. The man recovered.

k.crompton@theday.com

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