Chimney escape attempt lands suspect in tight spot

New London firefighters and police use a stokes basket to remove Dean Lachappelle, 18, from an apartment building at 14-16 Home St. in New London Thursday after Lachappelle became wedged in the chimney, allegedly while trying to evade the police.
New London firefighters and police use a stokes basket to remove Dean Lachappelle, 18, from an apartment building at 14-16 Home St. in New London Thursday after Lachappelle became wedged in the chimney, allegedly while trying to evade the police. Tim Cook/The Day

New London — Police and fire crews rescued a suspect Thursday night who, in an attempt to flee police, got stuck trying to crawl down the chimney of a Home Street apartment house.

Dean Lachappelle, 18, was sooty, dusty and conscious as paramedics carried him on a stretcher from the third floor of 14-16 Home St. around 8:45 p.m. and took him to Lawrence & Memorial Hospital for treatment of minor injuries.

A nearly full moon hung over neighbors and curious bystanders as they watched the 45-minute operation, conducted by the city's police and fire departments.

New London Fire Department Battalion Chief Keith Nichols said Lachappelle somehow got onto the roof, climbed into the chimney and slid down, feet first, about 20 to 25 feet.

"It goes down to the boiler and hot water heater," Nichols said of the chimney. "We shut those down when we got here."

The rescue began with a ladder truck extended to the roof, but then firefighters moved inside the building to the third floor and instead broke through the chimney, removing bricks to get to the suspect.

Police said Lachappelle had run from officers who were attempting to serve him with an arrest warrant for third-degree burglary around 7:30 p.m. at the Southeastern Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence detoxification facility at 47 Coit St.

The man ran to Home Street, where he broke into 14-16 Home, which has several apartments, only one of which is occupied.

Eliodora Castillo, who lives there with her daughter, said she heard a loud bang before someone knocked on her door a short while later. Castillo said she had been expecting someone, so she opened the door. Lachappelle, whom Castillo did not know and whom she described as young, skinny and white, was sweaty, shaking and scared, she said. He entered the home and said something about needing help, Castillo said, and that the police were after him.

"I'm freaking out with the guy in my apartment, and I said, 'No, come on,' grabbed him by the arm, put him out in the hallway, shut the door and called the police," Castillo said.

While Castillo was on the phone with the police, officers arrived, including K-9 officer Todd Lynch tracking the suspect with his canine, Jasper.

The next thing she knew, Castillo said, she and her daughter could hear Lachappelle crying and asking for help through the wall.

Police said the entire apartment building was searched before officers, too, heard Lachappelle screaming in the chimney.

Nichols said extrication from the top would have been too difficult, so firefighters removed bricks from the third-floor area of the chimney, at first just to get Lachappelle some fresh air.

Nichols said they called for Waterford to respond with its rescue truck, which included a hammer drill, a specialized tool useful for "chipping away at masonry."

But Nichols said that before the tool was used, firefighters had removed enough bricks to extricate Lachappelle, about 45 minutes after the rescue attempt began.

The city building department was called to the scene to assess the damage to the chimney, Nichols said.

Police charged Lachappelle with second-degree burglary and interfering with police. He is being held on $75,000 bond.

Police said Lachappelle also has charges pending from the Coventry Police Department.

s.goldstein@theday.com

New London firefighters and police work to remove Dean Lachappelle, 18, from a chimney at 14-16 Home St. in New London Thursday night. Lachappelle became wedged in the chimney, allegedly while trying to evade police.
New London firefighters and police work to remove Dean Lachappelle, 18, from a chimney at 14-16 Home St. in New London Thursday night. Lachappelle became wedged in the chimney, allegedly while trying to evade police. Tim Cook/The Day
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