SOUTHINGTON – Police thought they had found a fugitive murder suspect after tracing a phone and a Facebook account, but after a raid involving a police dog and an armored car New Britain detectives learned they’d grabbed the wrong man.
Benjamin Morales, who shares a name with the suspect, was staying at the Comfort Suites in Southington with his wife and two minor children when they were woken before 5 a.m. on Feb. 5 by police. Negotiators got him into custody without injuries or property damage.
At the station, a New Britain detective realized Morales wasn’t the same man who is wanted in connection with the fatal shooting of Alice Marie Figueroa on Feb. 4. The suspect is still on the run.
A redacted incident report written by Southington police and released Friday sheds light on the mix-up but still leaves questions. New Britain police didn’t return a call for comment Friday.
Relatives of the suspect pointed out the wanted man’s Facebook page to New Britain detectives. When a cell phone accessed the page, police traced the location of the phone to the Comfort Suites where Morales was staying. According to the report, that led New Britain police to get assistance from Southington and West Hartford police to arrest Morales at his hotel room.
After Morales was loaded into a squad car and heading to New Britain, detectives looking over his driver’s license realized he had a different birth date than their suspect.
“As of this time New Britain is still actively investigating the case to include locating (the suspect) and to determine how the Morales (at the hotel) accessed the Facebook page of the target,” Southington police wrote.
Police never charged Morales but detained him for several hours. According to Morales’ lawyer Robert Berke, he was handcuffed and driven to the New Britain Police Department and his wife and children separated.
“His kids are freaking out, his wife is freaking out, she’s in cuffs,” Berke said.
Morales was driven back to the Southington hotel after the mistake was realized, still in handcuffs in the back of a squad car according to Berke.
“If they realized he’s the wrong guy, why are they keeping him in cuffs?” he said.
The attorney filed an intent to sue the New Britain and Southington police departments earlier this month.
Southington police Sgt. Jeffrey Dobratz said the department had no comment on the incident due to the possible litigation.
Berke said his client preferred not to comment.
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