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Welcome developments in attack on hotel clerk

The welcome announcement this past weekend that Stonington had hired an independent investigator to review how police seemingly mishandled their response to an attack on a hotel clerk was followed by even better news Monday of the apprehension of the two suspects in the case.

On the morning of June 26, 59-year-old Crystal Caldwell, a clerk at the Quality Inn, was attacked by a couple staying at the hotel. Their confrontation with Caldwell followed their complaint to her about a lack of hot water in their room. The vicious attack was captured on a security camera.

Caldwell, who is Black, said the assault was accompanied by hateful, racist comments by the attackers.

On the lam since the assault, the suspects, New Yorkers Philip Sarner, 39, and Emily Orbay, 27, were taken into custody in Brooklyn, N.Y. They are both charged with intimidation based on bigotry and bias under Connecticut's hate-crime statute. Sarner, who has an extensive criminal record, was also charged with second-degree assault and both were charged with third-degree assault.

Given their departure from the crime scene, they are obviously a flight risk. When extradited back to Connecticut, the judge should set a high bail or, perhaps, no bail.

But how they ended up leaving the state, allowing them to elude capture for nearly three weeks with all the inherent dangers that presented to the public, is the focus of the independent investigation announced by Stonington First Selectwoman Danielle Chesebrough and reportedly backed by Police Chief J. Darren Stewart and members of the police commission.

After their alleged attack, Sarner and Orbay were taken to Lawrence + Memorial Hospital in New London, though it is hard to imagine why they would have suffered any significant injury given the one-sided nature of the attack on a defenseless Caldwell.

Police say hospital policies tied to the COVID-19 outbreak prevented the two responding officers from questioning the suspects. How the two suspects were then able to leave the hospital, hire a ride back to the hotel, pack their belongings and drive off is one focus of the investigation.

Hired to do the investigation was a former police officer who went on to earn a law degree, attorney Frank E. Rudewicz of Boston.

Only such an outside investigation will satisfy the public and the victim. It could identify procedural holes that need to be closed. We look forward to Mr. Rudewicz’s findings.

The Day editorial board meets regularly with political, business and community leaders and convenes weekly to formulate editorial viewpoints. It is composed of President and Publisher Tim Dwyer, Editorial Page Editor Paul Choiniere, Managing Editor Tim Cotter, Staff Writer Julia Bergman and retired deputy managing editor Lisa McGinley. However, only the publisher and editorial page editor are responsible for developing the editorial opinions. The board operates independently from the Day newsroom.

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