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In more than three decades in law enforcement and with all his associations both state and nationally, Newtown Police Chief James Viadero told The Newtown Bee January 24 that he has never seen or heard of an armed robbery combined with a hate crime like the one his department is tirelessly investigating.
Chief Viadero said at approximately 8:28 pm Saturday evening, January 21, officers responded to 113 South Main, Rooster Wines & Liquors, on a report of a robbery that just occurred. A proprietor there stated that two males entered, one requesting help in locating a product; at that time one brandishing a firearm walked him to the counter and took a large amount of cash representing several nights’ receipts.
The suspects fled toward the rear of the store, starting a fire before exiting a rear door, forcing the proprietor to flee through a front window, which he smashed to exit. Both were described as tall white males dressed in dark clothing.
Upon checking the premises and the surroundings area for a suspect, with the assistance of a State Police K9, officers observed a racial slur and two swastikas painted on the rear door of the establishment. The proprietor indicated that the markings were not there before the incident, attributing the same to the suspects.
“I have pretty extensive experience with criminal activity, and I’ve never encountered a robbery that is combined with a hate crime — as far as somebody painting these kind of slurs as they are leaving a robbery,” Chief Viadero said. “Generally, when somebody comes in to rob a store at gun point, they want to get out of there as fast as they can. This is highly unusual, and the reason why we brought in extra help right away to work the crime scene. We want to make sure we get it right – you only get one chance to get crime scene forensic evidence, so that’s why we brought in the state PD and the fire marshal’s office immediately.”
ADL Praises NPD
Connecticut’s Anti Defamation League has forcefully condemned the alleged robbery, fire, and hateful graffiti and is praising the Newtown and Connecticut State Police for their swift and appropriate response. ADL Connecticut Regional Director Steve Ginsburg met with Chief Viadero and Sgt Aaaron Bahamonde on Monday, January 23, to discuss the incident and offer assistance.
“We had a nice discussion with the ADL representatives yesterday, and they feel very confident in our abilities and our progress on the case,” Chief Viadero said Tuesday.
“While this may be an opportunity for community education one day, right now the most important thing is making sure that everyone in Newtown knows that they are safe and the police are on top of it,” Mr Ginsburg said in a prepared statement. “We commend the Newtown Police for their work on this case; they have followed the proper procedures and gotten assistance from other agencies where needed.”
Mr Ginsburg said the kind of hateful action that occurred in Newtown on Saturday “has no place in our towns or in our country.”
“We hope that the people responsible are identified and punished,” he added. “Incidents of bias and hate crimes can deeply impact those specifically targeted and an entire community. ADL has also been in contact with the alleged victim and other community members to ensure that they are kept informed of key developments and have a chance to share their concerns and have them addressed.”
ADL’s annual Audit of Anti-Semitic Incidents, which tracks both criminal and non-criminal acts of anti-Semitism, documented 26 incidents in 2015. Over the past six months ADL’s Connecticut office has received scores of reports of anti-Semitic incidents across the state, including incidents of vandalism, hate mail, and bomb threats.
Robberies Not Related
Chief Viadero also confirmed to The Bee that a Friday night armed robbery that occurred about a block south at Wheels Citgo, 151 South Main Street, was not related to the liquor store incident, but he could not expand on that information because the investigation is still ongoing.
“I can say with a high degree of confidence that this was an isolated incident, and I don’t think there is any need for alarm on the part of any other business owners, or the community,” he said. “We’re confident this incident and Friday’s are not linked in any way.”
Regarding the Saturday event, Chief Viadero said investigators are making “very good progress,” and are “working tirelessly, making good progress” toward identifying and bringing the suspects in that incident to justice.
He said both the FBI and US Attorney’s office are being updated on the case, and have both offered whatever assistance they could provide. Newtown detectives are also working with the State Fire Marshal’s Office and the State Police Major Crimes Unit.
“But our guys are the lead investigators on this,” he added.