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New London police say work continues in hit-and-run case

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Editor's note: This version clarifies who New London Mayor Michael Passero met with on Tuesday.

New London — Investigators continued their work this week to build a case against the suspect in the hit-and-run death of a 20-year-old Connecticut College student.

Anique Ashraf, who was from Lahore, Pakistan, and a member of the Class of 2017, was killed in an early morning accident Dec. 18 on the northbound side of Route 32.

City police quickly identified the vehicle involved and by day’s end had announced they had identified the driver.

As of Wednesday, however, police had not made an arrest.

Deputy Police Chief Peter Reichard on Wednesday said work continues behind the scenes but there is also much about the case, like most investigations, that cannot be released to the public for fear of compromising the investigation.

Police work on the case includes numerous interviews, reconstruction of the accident and application for a search-and-seizure warrant.

Reichard said the search warrant is for the vehicle that was impounded on the day of the accident and will allow police to process the vehicle for further evidence.

Interviews are being conducted with people associated with both the victim and possibly the alleged driver in the incident, he said. This typically creates the timeline of events leading up to the incident.

In the meantime, police have stepped up their presence around Connecticut College and the U.S. Coast Guard Academy, mostly for speed enforcement.

New London Mayor Michael Passero met with Connecticut College president Katherine Bergeron Tuesday to discuss the safety of the students.

"It was a terrible tragedy," Passero said. "We want to ensure the safest possible environment exists there for the student population."

Passero said he intends to contact the state Department of Transportation and any other agency that needs to be involved to examine the crosswalks, lighting and traffic on Route 32 in the area of Connecticut College and the U.S. Coast Guard Academy. Any future meeting will include city police and U.S. Coast Guard Academy Superintendent Rear Admiral Jim Rendon.

"We'll have a complete review and ... ensure there's nothing we can't do better," Passero said.

Both Passero and Steven Fields, New London's interim chief administrative officer and a former state police lieutenant colonel, praised the work of police officers and Police Chief Margaret Ackley in moving swiftly to identify the driver and staying in contact with personnel at Connecticut College.

Bergeron said Ashraf was a talented writer, a scholar in the Toor Cummings Center for International Studies and the Liberal Arts, a leader in the LGBT community on campus and "a student of great talent, commitment and compassion."

Reichard declined to speculate on possible criminal charges, which may be dictated by the evidence and formulated with guidance from the state’s attorney’s office.

At a bare minimum, police must gather enough evidence to prove probable cause exists to apply for an arrest warrant through the state’s attorney’s office. That office, which must eventually prove a case beyond a reasonable doubt, needs to obtain a judge’s signature for the warrant.

“Right now we have a number of the building blocks,” Reichard said. “We are building a case.”

In the absence of an onsite arrest, it can take months in some cases for an arrest to come from a fatal motor vehicle accident investigation because of the complexities and difficulties in proving the case, Reichard said. Evidence obtained at the scene may have to be tested at the state forensic lab.

He said the department remains confident an arrest will be the outcome of the investigation.

Twitter: @SmittyDay


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