Groton fatal shooting suspect arrested in Canada

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The suspect in the shooting death of Joey Gingerella has been captured, Groton Town Police Chief Louis J. Fusaro Jr. said during a news conference Tuesday.

Dante Hughes, 30, of Groton was detained at the Canadian border, Fusaro said.

"Earlier this afternoon, detectives were able to employ investigative techniques that indicated Hughes was attempting to flee the country," Fusaro said in a news release issued Tuesday evening. "A short time ago, detectives learned Hughes was detained at the United States Canadian border. This information was confirmed with Canadian border services and he is being held in Canada awaiting legal procedures to bring him back to the United States."

Detectives and investigators are working with the New London County State's Attorney's Office, the U.S. Marshals Service and Canadian authorities to arrange Hughes' return, Fusaro said.

During the news conference Gingerella's stepfather, former Groton Town Councilor Joseph de la Cruz, read a statement from the family, his voice breaking at times. His wife, Tammy, sat beside him fighting tears as three family members stood behind them.

"We're very grateful to the Groton Town Police for the kind of work they're doing and for having apprehended the suspect in this horrible crime against our son," de la Cruz said.

Officers were called to a report of shots fired at 1:33 a.m. Sunday in the area of Ryan's Pub on Fort Hill Road in Groton. Patrol officers found Gingerella in the parking lot, suffering from multiple gunshot wounds. He was taken to Lawrence + Memorial Hospital, where he later died of his injuries, Fusaro said.

Gingerella was killed as he tried to stop an assault against a woman in the parking lot of Ryan's, according to witnesses.

The state medical examiner's office said Gingerella's death is ruled a homicide, caused by gunshot wounds to the extremities and torso.

Gingerella was a former pitcher and all-star baseball player for Robert E. Fitch High School who later struggled with an addiction to prescription drugs, entered recovery and then told his story to others. He spoke to students and parents at schools in Groton to help them understand how vulnerable people can be to addiction.

Joseph and Tammy de la Cruz spoke publicly about their family's struggle and helped organize Community Speaks Out, an organization that helps families find treatment for those addicted to drugs.

In November, Joseph de la Cruz was elected to the 41st District state representative seat.

"It's no secret that Joey suffered from addiction," Joseph de la Cruz said during a statement at the news conference. "He battled addiction for years, but found the courage and strength to confront it and to make positive changes in his life."

"He was making huge strides towards his goal. He was inspirational, helpful and caring individual who put the needs of others before himself. He is blessed with many friends who appreciated his perception of community, friendship and family. His circle included many people of all colors, backgrounds and races," Joseph de la Cruz said. "We all love him and know his legacy will grow through the work of his friends and family, who will continue to do so in his memory."

"We want to thank the many people who love Joey and want to do something for him and our family," he said. "We appreciate these sentiments and are thankful."

The family hopes to establish a scholarship in Gingerella's name, and is aware that several gofundme.com pages have been set up in the community, Joseph de la Cruz said. "The outpouring of support has been unbelievable. Those monies will be used to help heal our community in honor of our son, Joey," he said.

The family declined, through the deputy chief, to take questions and asked for privacy.

Fusaro said detectives worked tirelessly during the 72 hours after the crime, interviewed "countless witnesses and associates of Hughes" and produced multiple search-and-seizure warrants. A warrant was issued for Hughes on a charge of murder, Fusaro said.

Deputy Chief of Police Paul Gately said the investigation is ongoing and police would not reveal further details.

“We want to protect the integrity of this case,” he said. Affidavits involved in the case are sealed, he said. Acting Lt. Nicholas Parham led the investigation.

Fusaro thanked the officers, investigators, detectives and supervisors who worked to solve the case, and recognized the assistance of other law enforcement agencies in southeastern Connecticut, the Connecticut State Police and the New London County State's Attorney's Office.

Gately cautioned that some reports in social media have been inaccurate.

“It’s also important to emphasize that although the victim in this case is known and loved by members of this community, the Groton Police Department takes very seriously all investigations and victims regardless of who they are,” he said.

d.straszheim@theday.com

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