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    Monday, July 22, 2024

    Hearing details minutes after fatal Norwich shooting

    Former Norwich Police Officer Tyler Pacheco walked into a chaotic scene at a West Thames Street condominium complex on the morning of Nov. 5, 2022.

    There he found a woman on the ground with a gunshot wound to her face and her grieving mother screaming.

    State prosecutors on Tuesday aired Pacheco’s body camera footage during a probable cause hearing for murder suspect Atlantikh Balidemaj in a packed New London courtroom.

    Balidemaj, 23, is charged in the shooting death of 30-year-old Jashira Pagan outside the Uncas Condominiums home that Pagan shared with her mother.

    “Ma’am, you need to let the paramedics do their work,” one officer can be heard saying in the video, as Pagan’s mother, Arisleida Lopez, struggles with officers to reach her daughter. Several people in the courtroom broke down in tears while the scene played.

    Moments before police were called at 5:29 a.m. to respond to the shooting, elementary school music teacher Kevin Kinsall said he was awoken by the sound of arguing outside his home followed by a “pop” that sounded like a gunshot. Kinsall went outside on his back deck to look outside.

    “That’s when I saw the victim’s body on the ground,” Kinsall testified on Tuesday.

    Kinsall, a neighbor of Pagan, grabbed his phone and called 911 on his way outside to see if he could help her. Senior Assistant State’s Attorney Thomas DeLillo, who is prosecuting the case with Assistant State’s Attorney Marissa Goldberg, played the 911 call in the courtroom.

    Kinsall can be heard in the audio recording telling the emergency dispatcher that the woman appeared beyond saving. Pagan was lying in a pool of blood with a gunshot wound near her left eye. Her dog was at her side, Kinsall said.

    Pagan remained on life support at the hospital until she was pronounced dead two days later.

    It was Pagan’s mother who would tell police that the man at her house that morning was one of the sons of the owner of Bella Fiore, also known as Modelo Bar & Grill, which is located on the same stretch of Route 32 where the shooting occurred.

    Both Pagan and her mother had been at the bar the night before the shooting. Lopez said she left earlier than her daughter because she had to work the next morning, police reports show.

    On the morning of the shooting, Lopez told police she had discovered a man she later identified as Balidemaj in her daughter’s bedroom arguing with her daughter. She kicked him out of the house and Pagan followed when her dog ran outside. Lopez, who went inside to get ready for work, said did not know a shooting had occurred until police knocked at the door, police reports show.

    After the shooting, Balidemaj was discovered walking along Route 32 about a mile from the scene of the shooting, and taken into custody. Pacheco said Pagan’s mother identified Balidemaj as the man she had kicked out of her home that morning.

    Under questioning, Balidemaj told police he had met Pagan at the bar the previous evening and went back to her home and had sex, police reports show. Balidemaj denied shooting Pagan but gave varying accounts of what happened. At one point he claimed Pagan told him her boyfriend was outside knocking at the door, police reports show.

    Balidemaj said he then ran from the building and heard a “bang” when he was in the nearby woods, police reports show.

    Police said they have video footage from an Uncas Condominium unit of a man matching Balidemaj’s description running from the scene of the shooting. Police also said Balidemaj’s clothing tested positive for gunshot residue, which Balidemaj claims may have come from a nail gun he was using the day before.

    After Balidemaj was detained on Route 32, Norwich Police Lt. Steven Schmidt testified on Tuesday that Balidemaj was calm, spoke clearly and “appeared for all intents and purposes normal.” Balidemaj claimed he was on Route 32 because he was meeting someone at the Mohegan Sun, Schmidt testified.

    While Balidemaj was questioned, his brother and father arrived at the scene of the shooting. Balidemaj’s brother, Vullneter Balidemaj, said his brother had called at 5:08 a.m. to pick him up, saying “it is very uncomfortable here, she is acting weird,” before hanging up, police reports show.

    In a second call, police said Atlantikh Balidemaj again told Vullneter Balidemaj “I really need you to come and get me right now, I don’t want to be here, it’s a very bad situation,” the police report states.

    Balidemaj, wearing prison khakis with a groomed beard and shaved head, sat quietly in the courtroom during Tuesday’s proceedings. He was flanked by his two attorneys, the father and son team of William T. Koch Jr. and W. Theodore Koch III. Balidemaj occasionally motioned toward family and friends seated behind him in the courtroom.

    The hearing is slated to continue on Wednesday. After the completion of the hearing, Judge Arthur C. Hadden will rule whether there is probable cause to move the case to the pre-trial phase. Hadden needs only to find that there was enough evidence to conclude Balidemaj “probably” committed the crime versus the much higher standard of proof beyond a reasonable doubt needed for a conviction at a jury trial.

    Atlantikh Balidemaj remains held on $5 million bond.

    g.smith@theday.com

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