MERIDEN — Don’t tell this group of senior citizens they can’t be heroes. Armed with a cane, a motor scooter and plenty of grit, six senior citizens stopped a young man from assaulting a woman on West Main Street.
The group was outside the Meriden Senior Center on May 12 having a smoke when they spotted the young man, wearing only boxer shorts, grab a young woman as she struggled to get away. The group began yelling to him to stop and the couple moved into the street and closer to the center’s front door.
Gayen Sullivan and Michele King shielded the young woman, who was covered in bruises, while Kathy Barbetto revved up her motor scooter to slow down the attacker.
Another senior, Bob Kennedy, was seen raising his cane to the young man, as shouting and screaming ensued in the street.
“It escalated quickly,” said Director Rick Liegl. Staff called 911 and police officers arrived and arrested the young man.
The six seniors were honored Tuesday with a shrimp and chicken Alfredo dinner at the Senior Center dining hall surrounded by staff, and members of the Meriden Police Department.
Barbetto, Sullivan, King, Joe DiNino and Michael Porto each received citations, buttons and other gifts. Kennedy could not attend but was also honored. Meriden Senior Center members wore purple ribbons to raise awareness about domestic violence.
“Often, members of society will turn a blind eye rather than get involved. On this day, these brave seniors took command and control and stopped the cycle of domestic violence,” said Police Chief Roberto Rosado. “If not for the quick thinking and actions of the seniors involved, the victim may have been subjected to additional abuse.”
Sullivan said they saw the couple arguing across the street, so she and King shielded the young woman. She was trying to get to the train station and he wouldn’t let her leave, they said.
“He was pushing her and calling her all kinds of names,” Sullivan said. “We told him to get lost. Eventually the cops came and we were pleased to see him get hauled away in cuffs.”
The seniors acted with protective instinct and just did what they had to, King said.
“These two protected the girl,” said Barbetto who drives a scooter. “I wasn’t going to stand for domestic violence. I gunned it full force like 10 miles an hour, and then backed up and did it again. He stumbled.”
The victim was transported to MidState Medical Center for treatment of her injuries. The alleged perpetrator was arrested on third-degree assault charges. A restraining order was filed and he must surrender all weapons while waiting for a court hearing, Rosado said.
“A lot of our seniors come five days a week,” Liegl said. “They have challenges, health and financial challenges. It can be a challenging time in life.”
Dramatic events are rare at the center, but the heroes weren’t surprised by their actions, only by all the attention they were receiving.
Liegl told the crowd the situation ended up in the middle of the road, became loud and “rather dangerous.”
“But they were not going to let this go on. What you did was commendable,” Liegl said.
“Now, I hope you all quit smoking.”