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    Friday, December 01, 2023

    Chief: Former Conn. police officer faces first in series of burglary charges

    Hartford — Police from two Connecticut towns have arrested a former officer in Glastonbury and New Britain on burglary charges, a police official said Wednesday.

    The burglary arrests by Wethersfield and Old Saybrook police are the first of what is expected to be a cascade of similar charges from dozens of towns.

    Wethersfield Chief Rafael Medina said his department served Patrick Hemingway with an arrest warrant while he was in lockup at state Superior Court in Hartford after his appearance Wednesday morning. He was charged with third-degree burglary, sixth-degree larceny and third-degree criminal mischief for the Wethersfield break-in, Medina said. His bail was set at $100,000 for the Wethersfield charges.

    Hemingway, 37, already is in custody in lieu of more than $1 million bail.

    The charges stem from an investigation at Old Wethersfield Country Store on Main Street in the town's historic district, Medina said.

    According to a news release, police learned of a nighttime burglary at the store on Feb. 10. Someone stole a cash register drawer, which held $200, police said.

    The lead investigator on the case, Detective Robert Malinowski, was the first to suspect Hemingway — who was a Glastonbury police officer at the time.

    Old Saybrook police were the first to charge Hemingway with burglary, according to Old Saybrook Chief Michael Spera. He said the burglar attempted a break-in at Pizza Palace on Boston Post Road on May 8.

    Police in the shoreline town charged Hemingway with third-degree burglary, Spera said. His court-set bond was $12,000 for the Old Saybrook case, and he is expected to be arraigned Thursday on that charge in state Superior Court in Middletown.

    "Obviously, I think it's horrific that a police officer would commit such a crime," Spera said. "Absolutely horrible, and this is just evidence that no one is above the law."

    Hartford prosecutor Robert Diaz alluded to the pending arrests during Hemingway's court appearance Wednesday morning on a computer crime charge. The original charge grew from accusations that Hemingway used the Glastonbury Police Department's law enforcement system to try to determine whether he was a suspect in the series of burglaries, according to the warrant for his first arrest.

    Diaz referenced the imminent burglary charges when Hemingway's lawyer, James E. Sulick, was complaining about the $1 million-plus bail on which his client has been held since late September. The $1,005,000 was "exorbitantly high and totally inappropriate" for the computer and false statement charges, Sulick said.

    "I do believe that our appearance this morning in court was productive, in that it finally resulted in warrants being served that were being held by police," Sulick told Hearst Connecticut Media Group Wednesday afternoon.

    Hemingway is a person of interest in about 30 business burglaries, according to a warrant for his arrest on the computer crime charges. The warrant, written by a Western District Crime detective with the Connecticut State Police, described him as a suspected "serial burglar" and said he misused a law enforcement database to find out whether investigators were suspicious of him.

    Detectives in the western part of the state are investigating the bulk of the burglaries, in part to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest. But it was Wethersfield investigators, led by Malinowski, who were the first to suspect Hemingway when they were looking into the Old Wethersfield Country Store burglary, the warrant said.

    "He's the one who broke it open," Medina said.

    Investigators found "commonalities" at similar burglary scenes, the warrant said: The burglar was tall, like Hemingway, who is 6-foot-2; used what looked like police equipment, including what appeared on surveillance footage to be a Glastonbury portable police radio; and was driving a Jeep Cherokee, which they learned was registered to Hemingway's wife, the warrant said.

    A member of the Army National Guard, Hemingway worked for the New Britain Police Department from 2009 to 2019 and left on good terms, a Hearst Connecticut Media Group review of personnel records shows.

    In January 2019, Hemingway started working for the Glastonbury Police Department where he also earned good reviews. His last day with the department was Sept. 1.

    It's not clear when Glastonbury police leaders first learned Hemingway was suspected of being involved in the burglaries. But based on the ongoing multi-town investigation, state police said in the computer crime warrant, it appears "Patrick was a serial burglar while employed as a police officer at the Glastonbury Police Department."

    State police on Sept. 19 told Hearst Connecticut Media they were investigating a string of burglaries that took place over a "broad" geographical area, including Glastonbury. Calling it a "multi-faceted" probe, troopers released few details, but said Glastonbury police had asked for their help. Western District Major Crime detectives were assigned to investigate, even though they usually look into crimes in the western part of the state.

    On Sept. 20, Glastonbury police said in a news release that the name of a former officer came up in a burglary investigation and he was a "person of interest." They did not release the name of the former officer at the time.

    "Because the investigation involves multiple jurisdictions, we have called in Connecticut State Police Major Crimes to assist," Glastonbury Police Chief Marshall Porter said in a statement at the time.

    "Any breach of the public's trust is unacceptable," Porter said. "We are fully cooperating with the state police investigation and expect anyone responsible for violating the law to be held accountable."

    On Sept. 22, Hemingway was arrested as a fugitive from justice at Trenton-Mercer Airport in New Jersey, where his flight school is located. He was extradited the following week.

    Hemingway was arraigned on charges of first-degree computer crime, a Class B felony, and false statement, a Class A misdemeanor, on Sept. 29 in state Superior Court in Manchester, where Judge Sheila M. Prats said more charges were expected in the case.

    She set Hemingway's bail at $1 million, noting he has his pilot's license and could flee.

    Hemingway remains in custody at the Corrigan-Radgowski Correctional Center in the Uncasville section of Montville.

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