Body cam shows Wallingford officer making ‘split second decision’ as armed suspect flees

Body cam shows Wallingford officer making ‘split second decision’ as armed suspect flees

reporter photo

WALLINGFORD — Body camera video from an incident on Fairlawn Drive last week shows how an officer had to make a split-second decision when a suspect fled from a home carrying a rifle. 

“He’s coming out the back door, he’s coming out the back door,” Officer Vincent Szelogowski called out to other officers as the suspect in a reported domestic incident began running away through nearby yards carrying a rifle and backpack with Szelogowski and other officers right behind.  

The incident began around 6:20 p.m. when police responded to 12 Fairlawn Drive for a reported domestic incident on April 14. Christopher Poach, 38, reportedly threatened another person with a taser and mentioned shooting the person, police said. Poach also reportedly assaulted the person and tried to restrain them.

Szelogowski arrived at the scene and took up a position behind the home, using a tree for cover. His body camera video shows him keeping watch behind the home as the scene unfolds. On his radio, different members of the police department can be heard saying “additional resources” were on the way. The police tactical team and a crisis negotiator were responding because Poach had barricaded himself inside the home with weapons.  

“It was smart police officers making split-second decisions in real time under firm supervision,” Police Chief William Wright said Wednesday after reviewing the incident. 

From his position behind the tree, Szelogowski notified other officers Poach kicked out a screen and pointed a firearm out the window about 6:50 p.m. An unidentified person can be heard on the radio saying that the resources are coming and to “take appropriate action.” 

Less than two minutes later Szelogowski radios that Poach is coming out the back door. Poach can be seen with what appears to be a backpack on one shoulder and a long dark object in one hand. Poach runs through several yards as Szelogowski gives chase, repeatedly screaming at him to “drop the gun.” Szelogowski has his firearm pointed at Poach as he gives chase. At one point Poach drops the backpack in a yard and continues running. When Poach jumps over a low wood fence and appears to stumble, Szelogowski takes him into custody. The video shows a rifle on the ground near Poach.

Wright said what the video doesn’t show is that there were other officers around the house, including Sgt. Lou Brangi,  the supervisor at the scene. There was an officer staged on each side of the home in the front and back. After Poach told police on the phone that he was not leaving the house, officers secured the perimeter and the tactical team was called. Wright suspects that when Poach fled out the back he did not know there were officers in position. 

Brangi was running alongside Szelogowski during the chase,Wright said. After he was taken into custody, officers checked the rifle Poach was carrying and found it had one round in the chamber. 

Wright said he spoke with several of the officers involved in the incident. They believe if officers were not so close to Poach during the chase, he might have had an opportunity to turn and raise the weapon at officers. 

There were no reported injuries in the incident.

Police were preparing to send out an alert message to residents using the Everbridge notification system when Poach fled from the home, Wright said. Some complained that police did not notify them of the incident earlier. 

Poach, who lives at 12 Fairlawn Drive, was charged with first-degree reckless endangerment, second-degree threatening, third-degree assault, breach of peace, stealing a firearm, second-degree criminal mischief, criminal possession of ammunition by a felon and two counts each of criminal possession of a firearm or electric defense weapon and criminal possession of body armor. He is currently held on $500,000 bond and due to appear in Meriden Superior Court on June 7. 

lsellew@record-journal.com203-317-2225Twitter: @LaurenSellewRJ

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