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    Monday, March 04, 2024

    Stonington police explain investigation of assault of Black hotel clerk

    Mystic _ Stonington police announced Friday night that they have obtained arrest warrants for a white New York couple accused of beating a Black woman who works as a clerk at the Quality Inn on June 26.

    Capt. Todd Olson said that the New London State’s Attorney Office issued warrants Wednesday charging the man with second-degree assault and the woman with third-degree assault. Video from the hotel show the man punching, stomping and body slamming the woman to the ground.

    While Stonington police had also included information in the warrant application seeking to charge the couple with intimidation based on bigotry or bias, the state’s hate crime statute, the state’s attorney’s office did not include that charge in the arrest warrants. Olson declined Friday night to discuss why the state’s attorney’s office came to that decision.

    Olson said police are working with police in New York and the FBI’s Civil Rights Division, to apprehend the two suspects. Olson declined to release their names on Friday night.

    Police also issued a lengthy press release to explain the assault and their subsequent investigation as well as correcting misinformation they said has circulated about the case. Some critics have taken to social media over the past week to criticize police for not immediately charging the couple before they could flee back to New York after they were released from Lawrence + Memorial Hospital.

    “In response to calls from concerned citizens over the past week regarding an incident at the Quality Inn, and out of concern for our valued relationship with the community, Stonington Police wish to clarify details of this incident,” stated Olson.

    Crystal Caldwell, 59, of Groton, has said the couple called her an “old monkey” and told her “Black Lives Matter? Your life doesn’t matter, you don’t deserve to live on this earth,” while beating her. Caldwell suffered a concussion, a swollen face and a badly injured right eye, along with injuries to her wrists and ribs and back in two separate attacks. All three were brought to the hospital after the incident as the couple requested treatment as well.

    Olson has said police later called the hospital and said a suspect in an assault was being treated in the emergency room and officers would like to come over to interview him and place him under arrest. Olson said police were told they should not come to the hospital due to COVID-19 precautions.

    Olson on Friday provided this description of the incident, its aftermath and the subsequent investigation.

    On June 26 at approximately 11:30 a.m., police received two 911 calls reporting a physical disturbance at the Route 27 hotel. While police were responding and before they arrived, a second, much more violent, attack took place.

    When police arrived, they first encountered Caldwell. While they spoke with her, they learned the two guests involved in the incident were outside. As officers interviewed Caldwell and the couple, they all requested medical attention. Ambulances came to hotel and left about noon to bring Caldwell to the Pequot Treatment Center in Groton and the couple to L + M in New London.

    Officers remained at the hotel and spoke with two employees who he called “the two most substantial witnesses.” Employees were having difficulty getting access to video footage, and officers could only view portions of the first, less serious altercation. Still after talking with witnesses, police established probable cause to charge the couple.

    One of the employees asked what to do with the couple’s belongings in their room and police told them to restrict their keycard access to the room and call police should they arrive back from the hospital.

    Police then called L + M and learned from staff that police would not be permitted inside the emergency room to make an arrest due to COVID-19 precautions.

    Olson told The Day Friday night that he and Chief J. Darren Stewart have since had discussions with hospital officials and were told that if police need access to patients in the future they will be given access.

    In an effort to arrest the male suspect, police contacted him by phone at the hospital, and told him he needed to contact police to be escorted back to the hotel to retrieve his belongings because the couple was not welcome back at the hotel. At that time, police planned to charge both suspects.

    Police said their next contact with the suspects was shortly after 3 p.m. when the man called police to report he was being threatened and harassed by the victim’s family on Facebook. Police then called the man at about 3:20 p.m. and he told them he was still at the hospital.

    Police then went back to the Quality Inn to see if the suspects were actually returning and to charge them, but found their car was gone.

    Over the course of last weekend, police continued to work with hotel staff to obtain the video as quickly as possible. On Monday, police said they received all of the video footage of the incident. Police said this was the first time the entire videos were seen by police.

    Video surveillance from the hotel shows that at 2:19 p.m., the two suspects were dropped off at the hotel by a Lyft driver, and the hurried to their car and immediately leave. From the time the Lyft vehicle pulls into the lot near the suspects’ car to the time they pull out onto Route 27 is less than 1 minute.

    Surveillance also revealed that during the minutes between the second assault and the police arriving and encountering the couple, they walked to their car and the woman put a large bag in the trunk. Police said this information was not known to officers at the hotel scene and officers still believed that the suspects would need the police to access their belongings in the room. On Tuesday, during a follow-up interview with one of the witnesses, police learned the suspects had not left anything in the room as initially thought.

    Police also clarified various aspects of the case.

    As for Caldwell's claims that one of the suspects told her “Black lives matter, your life doesn’t, you don’t deserve to live on this earth,” police say they “have yet to identify anyone who heard or saw this statement.”

    As for the assertion that the one of the suspects came over the front desk at Caldwell, police said neither of the two altercations occurred over, behind or in front of any desk. The first altercation came as two employees were speaking with the suspects. Caldwell then left the lobby area, and walked up a hallway where a verbal altercation between her and the suspects ensued as she tried to get some ice for her head injuries. Caldwell then walked away and was chased down and assaulted by the couple.

    Police said they were not on the scene when the attacks took place.

    Police said the first assault occurred at 11:33 a.m. One witness took the victim to her office and then called police and the second assault occurred at 11:37 a.m. all prior to officers police arriving at the hotel. Police said the timeline is supported by video surveillance.

    As for claim the suspects were “allowed” to come back to the hotel to grab their belongings and leave, police said that completely unbeknownst to them, the suspects got a ride from the hospital, got into their car and left. They were back on the property for less than one minute as they got into their vehicle and fled and never entered the building or encountered the police.

    As for a claim that police had not yet interviewed eyewitnesses including the two employees, police said officers can be seen on video until around 12:20 p.m. interviewing the two employees that witnessed the attack. Their accounts were provided in an initial report by on scene officers.

    As of a claim that the first effort by police to investigate the assault was Tuesday morning, police said they completed their on scene investigation and obtained witness statements right after the incident and last weekend they completed their initial reports for a warrant, continued efforts to obtain video and made arrangements for a statement from Caldwell.

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