After Chili's shooting, Danbury police expect multiple arrests, better communication with public – Danbury News Times

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Authorities on Monday, March 7, 2022, provided an update on a fight at the Chili’s on Newtown Road in Danbury, Conn., over the weekend that led to gunfire, saying that officers have identified and interviewed many people involved, with many arrests expected.
Authorities on Monday, March 7, 2022, provided an update on a fight at the Chili’s on Newtown Road in Danbury, Conn., over the weekend that led to gunfire, saying that officers have identified and interviewed many people involved, with many arrests expected.
DANBURY — As police said Monday they expect to arrest multiple people after gunshots were fired at Chili’s over the weekend, the city officials said they are looking to improve communication with the public about crime in the community.
No one was injured in the disturbance at the Newtown Road restaurant on Saturday evening, but police said Monday they’ve identified and interviewed many of the people involved.
It took about 24 hours for police to release information to the public about the shooting, which occurred after two groups of patrons got into a dispute inside the restaurant. The groups moved outside before a person involved in the fight pulled out a gun and fired, police said.
Det. Lt. Mark Williams said the investigation is going “very well.”
“We’re thankful that no one got injured, of course, but as we move forward in this investigation I anticipate the outcome to result in multiple arrests,” he said.
Police are working on at least one arrest affidavit that will be submitted to Superior Court for approval for an arrest warrant, he said. He expects the court to grant the warrant.
Police put out a press release around 7 p.m. Sunday — about 24 hours after the shooting — and a second one around noon on Monday with more details about the department’s investigation.
“We take this type of incident very seriously and are thankful that no one was injured,” Williams said in the Monday press release.
However, police couldn’t be reached for comment Saturday night or during the day on Sunday to confirm the shooting or provide more details. Meanwhile, information and speculation about the incident spread on social media, including Facebook forums.
The mayor’s office spokesman confirmed the shooting on Sunday morning and later sent the press release to Hearst Connecticut Media, shortly before police posted it on their Facebook page.
Mayor Dean Esposito said he’s considering including funding for a full-time public information officer as part of next fiscal year’s budget. This could help information get out to the public faster.
“It is absolutely something we’ve discussed as early as last week,” he said.
With that funding in the budget, the department would look to hire “someone with experience in that type of communication,” he said.
“We’ll definitely be open to the press and to the public as soon as possible, like we always have,” Esposito said.
Chief Patrick Ridenhour said he hopes the position could be funded. “The position would serve all of the public safety departments but as you know the bulk of the work usually comes from the police department,” he said in an email. “I think it would be beneficial to us, the media, and most importantly the public.”
Williams and two lieutenants share public information officer duties on top of their other work. All three were not scheduled to work over the weekend.
“We’re a 154-person department, at least that’s our authorized strength,” said Williams, who runs the narcotics and special victims unit, while taking on the “lion’s share” of public information duties. “However, we never have 154 officers, so we have a lot of people doing multiple different duties. The PIO (public information officer) duty is an auxiliary position, so we try to get information out when we can.”
After the shooting, it took the investigating detective and captain some time to confer, Williams said. The detective captain was out, but wrote up a press release on his own time, which Williams then shared on Facebook.
“We definitely want to share information and we have no problem with that,” he said. “I think our history will show our notifications to the public are probably better than they ever been.”
Rather than posting press release about arrests directly on the police’s Facebook page, the department is considering putting this information on some sort of city account and then sharing the link on Facebook, he said. This way if that case is eventually dismissed, for example, the press release doesn’t remain on Facebook.
The department has also launched a new tip line, Tip411, an internet-based tool that enables the public to text an anonymous tip to police. Officers may respond back during the course of the investigation to create an anonymous two-way conversation.
Shootings in Danbury are relatively rare.
However, Saturday’s shooting came less than a week after another shooting about a half mile from Chili’s on Feb. 28. Police didn’t release information about that shooting at the time.
Gunshots were reported, but no one was injured, Williams said.
“In that particular incident, it appears a license plate on a non-involved car may have actually received damage from either a bullet or maybe a casing. I’m not sure,” he said.
Police are reviewing video evidence, he said.
“We’re at the point where we’re thankful for video coverage we get from the different areas,” Williams said. “But we’re also annoyed with the video coverage because often times it’s granny, and often times it just gives you a little tease of information. But we’re sorting through everything we have in trying to determine who the persons were involved in that.”
It’s unclear if the Feb. 28 shooting is related to the one at Chili’s.
“We really don’t know to be honest,” Williams said. “There’s always a possibility, but we don’t know. We have not connected the shootings up to this point.”
Police are continuing to investigate a shooting on Rowan Street at the end of December that injured a man in his 20s, as well as a shooting by Rose Hill Avenue and Ann Drive that hurt two men. Police haven’t arrested anyone in either case.
In the Chili’s shooting, cops have interviewed about 20 to 25 people who either witnesses or were involved, Willaims said.
A manager at Chili’s directed questions to corporate spokespeople.
“We care deeply about our Team Members and Guests and were surprised and concerned at what happened at Chili’s Danbury over the weekend,” a Chili’s spokesperson said in an email. “Because the safety and health of our Team Members and Guests is our top priority, we do not tolerate violent behavior in our restaurants. We’ve confirmed that our Team Members are doing well and are relieved no one was injured.”
Esposito said the Chili’s incident was “nerve-racking” for those who were there.
Farley Santos, a City Council member who represents the 4th Ward where the shooting occurred, said residents haven’t reached out to him about the incident.
“Any incident like this or occurrences like this are concerning,” he said. “We want to ensure that every resident is safe in the city of Danbury so we take it seriously. I hope and I know the police department are doing all they can to investigate this matter.”
He said he supports providing police with the funding they need to do “their work in the best quality possible.” A public information officer could benefit the public, he said.
“Anything that can create more transparency for the public is a good idea,” Santos said. “There certainly is a need for more information out to the public in a more timely manner.”
Anyone with information is asked to contact Detective Thomas Collins at 203-979-4662 or t.collins@danbury-ct.gov. Anonymous tips can be made through the confidential tips line at 203-790-TIPS or online at www.tip411.com/tips/new?alert_group_id=22782. Anonymous texts can also be sent by texting DANBURYPD and the information to 847411.
Reporter Tara O’Neill contributed to this story.
Julia Perkins has been a reporter with The News-Times since June 2016 and covers the towns of Bethel and Brookfield. She also has covered breaking news for Hearst Connecticut on weekend mornings. Graduating from Quinnipiac University in 2016, she served as the editor-in-chief of The Quinnipiac Chronicle, the weekly, student-run newspaper. She is a huge “Harry Potter” fan.

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