Fatal DUI crash led to 30-day suspension for Southington police officer

Fatal DUI crash led to 30-day suspension for Southington police officer


SOUTHINGTON — An officer should have known his girlfriend, who caused a fatal accident, was drunk and unable to drive safely after the couple spent an evening at two local bars, according to an internal affairs investigation by the Southington Police Department.

Police officer Ryan Lair and his union agreed to a 30-day unpaid suspension last year. He has completed his suspension and is back on duty.

Krista Pikora, 26, of 2118 Meriden-Waterbury Turnpike, was charged with second-degree manslaughter with a motor vehicle, second-degree assault with a motor vehicle, driving under the influence and several other driving charges. She is expected to be sentenced May 10 after pleading guilty to the manslaughter and assault charges.

A call left with Lair’s attorney Stephen McEleney was not returned. The Record-Journal obtained the internal affairs report through a Freedom of Information Act request.

After leaving Friend’s Café downtown in the early morning hours of April 30, 2016, Pikora collided head-on with another car on West Center Street. Brandon Caron, 30, of 45 Willis St., Bristol, was killed and his passenger and girlfriend Kelly Brennan, 26, of Southington, was seriously injured.

Pikora and Lair, a five-year Southington police officer, went out for Lair’s birthday the night of the accident. The two started at Smokin’ With Chris where they each had two beers and later went to Friends Café where they had a beer and a shot of liquor each.

Before meeting Lair, Pikora had several drinks at a bar in Naugatuck.

Lair drove Pikora back to her car at Smokin’ With Chris and the two then drove separately.

The internal affairs investigator, police Lt. Jay Suski, found that Lair, based on his training in detecting drunk and impaired drivers, should have known his girlfriend was under the influence and unable to drive safely.

“It is reasonable to conclude that Lair should have suspected Pikora was under the influence of alcohol based upon his observations of her conduct combined with the amount of alcohol he observed her consume while they were together,” Suski wrote.

He found that Lair violated the employee conduct section that prohibits officers from exhibiting conduct that “discredits themselves or their department” on or off duty, as well as the department’s code of ethics.

Medical records show that Pikora had a blood alcohol level of 0.17, more than twice the legal limit, at the time of the crash.

She was also under the influence of barbiturates and amphetamines, according to the investigation.

Police reviewed surveillance footage from the three bars and talked to bar patrons and employees about the couple’s behavior.

Based on footage, Suski wrote that Pikora fell twice while on the dance floor at Friends Café.

“She is later seen dancing solo attempting to perform a headstand and two back bends. She continues to dance by herself and appears to be stumbling at times,” Suski wrote.

Lair said he didn’t notice anything out of the ordinary with his girlfriend of four years. Her speech was not slurred and her eyes weren’t red or glossy, he told investigators, and it’s not uncommon for her to dance.

“She likes to dance. I wouldn’t say she’s good at it, but… whenever she dances… she gets after it. She goes all out,” he said in the report.

A doorman at Friends Café said she was dancing badly, but had seen her dancing similarly on another occasion and remembered her “because of how terribly she danced.”

According to the report, he also saw her stumble leaving the restaurant.

A patron interviewed by police had similar things to say about Pikora’s dancing.

Lair told investigators that Pikora falls frequently and has balance issues due to fibromyalgia. Suski said he requested documentation of fall or balance problems from Pikora’s attorney but didn’t receive anything. She’s had no falls in the hospital, Suski wrote.

Lair’s training at the police academy included a session on impaired driving, Suski wrote, and the officer has made nine drunk driving arrests during his career.

“Given Officer Lair’s most recent training and experience with DUI arrests, he should have the ability to recognize the effects and general indicators of a person impaired by alcohol, drugs or a combination of both,” Suski wrote.

Police officials said they couldn’t comment on the matter since its under consideration by the courts.

Attorneys for Caron’s estate filed a notice of intent to sue last year, naming the town of Southington and Lair. The notice claims Lair helped Pikora become intoxicated, but didn’t stop her from driving.

Twitter: @JBuchananRJ


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