Danbury Police Department still reeling from shooting
DANBURY - The Police Department is doing its best to get back to normal, 12 days after an officer shot and killed a knife-wielding man and critically wounded his mother.
But it isn’t easy.
The first Danbury police officer to shoot a suspect in 20 years has brought shows of support from the community and camaraderie from neighboring police departments.
“It’s like what happens when an officer dies,” says Danbury police Chief Patrick Ridenhour. “Obviously this is an incident nobody wants to go through, but we also understand this is something any officer can face.”
Ridenhour was referring to the complex mix of sadness and consolation surrounding the Dec. 29 fatal shooting of Paul Arbitelle by Danbury police Officer Alex Relyea, 32, a four-year veteran of the force, and Relyea’s unintentional shooting of Arbitelle’s mother, who remains in critical condition at Danbury Hospital.
Specific details about how a Saturday night complaint of a man with a knife escalated into a homicide are not expected to be released until the state police Western District Major Crimes Squad completes its investigation. So far all police have said is that Relyea and his partner, 46-year-old Officer Regina Guss, acted in self-defense.
Guss, a 12-year veteran of the department, is already back on duty.
Relyea could be back on the job before the end of the week, said Ridenhour, who added both officers have available to them the department’s full complement of counseling and peer support programs.
“We have to understand that when there is a loss of life, nobody has a good feeling about that,” Ridenhour said.
Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton agreed.
“It is a tragedy for the mother, for the victim who was going after the police officer with a knife, and the police officer himself, who had to exercise his academy and in-house training to defend himself,” Boughton said. “It’s difficult for everybody.”
Family members have not spoken publicly about their loss or about the Dec. 29 shooting, except through an attorney who filed papers that the wounded mother, 74-year-old Linda Arbitelle, intends to sue the city for damages.
The officers, who both have multiple decorations, will have to wait with the family, the police department, and Danburians for state police to finish a report that is now in its second week.
It was not clear whether the report would be finished in weeks or months, police said Wednesday.
The shooting at Glen Apartments senior housing complex marked the second time since Christmas that a police officer in southwestern Connecticut has shot a suspect.
On Tuesday, undercover officers in New Haven shot and wounded a 22-year-old man who was wanted on an arrest warrant, after the man fought with police, according to a release.
In Danbury, shooting victim Paul Arbitelle had an extensive arrest record, including fights with police. On Dec. 29, Arbitelle fought with police for the last time.
The 45-year-old Arbitelle, who had distinctive serpent and skull tattoos on his face and swastikas and “white power” tattooed on his body, had been released from prison in October.
Ridenhour said the department’s thoughts were with his mother.
“She was not the intended target, and exactly how she was hit is a subject of the investigation,” Ridenhour said. “We certainly hope that she makes a full recovery.”