Published September 13. 2013 6:00PM Updated September 16. 2013 4:06PM
New London — Lance Goode, who says he has been trying to lie low since he filed a civil rights lawsuit against the city police department, apparently found himself in the middle of a homicide investigation earlier this month.
Goode, 44, of 98 Williams St. was charged with reckless driving and failure to obey an officer's signal on Sept. 1. Speaking about the incident Friday while awaiting his arraignment in Superior Court, Goode said he had nothing to hide. Goode said it began after an undercover officer he did not recognize approached him in an unmarked car on Dell Avenue and started asking him questions.
The incident ended with his arrest at the Sam's convenience store at 1 Ocean Ave., where he and his nephew were removed at gunpoint from his wife's Town & Country minivan. He said the police seized the van.
"They said a person of interest was in the car four days earlier," Goode said. The court returned the $500 cash bond that Lillian, Goode's wife, had posted following Goode's arrest, issued a promise to appear in court and continued the case to Oct. 4. The police still have the van.
Goode, a lifelong city resident who has a long history of contacts with the police department, is suing the police and the city in federal court. He claims a police officer planted drugs on him during one arrest and that he was brutalized and bit by a police dog during another.
The Sept. 1 incident occurred three days after Jesus Pinero, 29, was shot and killed in the area of Connecticut Avenue and Prest Street. Goode said a lot of "stories" about the homicide have been circulating and that a man he knows was one of many people wanted for questioning by the police. Goode said he has nothing to do with the case.
"I just know the guy," he said. "I didn't take part in the crime."
A police report about Goode's arrest has not been made public, but Deputy Chief Peter Reichard issued a statement on Sept. 2 saying Goode was arrested after detectives "tried to stop a car wanted in connection to an ongoing investigation." Reichard said Goode fled when officers tried to stop him and began passing vehicles in a reckless manner on Ocean Avenue. Detectives finally were able to stop the car with the help of uniformed officers, according to Reichard.
Goode was charged and the car was towed and impounded as part of the ongoing investigation.
Goode said that if the police wanted to speak with him, they should have knocked on his door or contacted his lawyer.
"They know my address," he said.
Goode said he went to visit a friend on Dell Avenue and didn't realize it was an undercover officer in an unmarked car who started to question him as he was pulling away. He said the person asked him whether he had spoken to a man named Phil or Bill, and if he was there to "meet him." Goode said he responded, "No" to both questions and pulled away.
The car followed him as he turned left onto Ocean Avenue, Goode said. A driver in front of him had slowed down to take a right, so he pulled around the car and continued driving, he said.
"They didn't have any lights on until I got by the Family Dollar (at 48 Ocean Ave.)," he said. "As soon as I seen the lights, I pulled over."
With the van surrounded by police cars and officers with guns drawn, Goode said, he complied with their commands, dropping the car keys on the ground and exiting with his arms above his head. His nephew was taken out of the passenger seat in the same manner.
Goode said he had to stand behind a police car for 40 minutes, but that the police treated him respectfully during the arrest and booking processes, even loosening his handcuffs when he complained they were too tight.
Goode said officers found half of a marijuana blunt in the car and issued him a $150 ticket for the infraction. He said they called in a narcotics dog after finding the blunt and seized the van after saying the dog had "alerted" on narcotics.
His wife went to the police department two days later to ask about the van, which is their only vehicle, and was told the police had obtained a search warrant for the vehicle and that it was being processed by state police, Goode said.
Attorney Conrad Seifert, who is representing Goode in the federal civil rights case, said he expects the charges to be dropped. He said he had seen a video of Goode's arrest, taken by a passerby, that was posted online.
"Lance and his nephew were unarmed," Seifert said. "It was broad daylight. There were a lot of officers with guns drawn for what in the end was a relatively minor motor vehicle matter."
Goode said he would continue to do what he has been doing — staying home most of the time except to go to his job as an estimator for a local contracting company.
Last month, members of the state and local branches of the NAACP called a press conference to express their frustration with state and federal law enforcement officials who have not pursued criminal charges against former New London Police Officer Roger Newton, who is accused of planting drugs at the scene of a 2010 arrest.
Federal officials told a local NAACP leader that they questioned Goode's credibility. At the press conference, Goode said he lives in fear of police and, aside from work, rarely leaves the house.