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Domestic violence calls are most dangerous for Connecticut police officers

Bristol Police Officers killed
Joe Amon
/
Connecticut Public
A Bristol police officer is hugged as Connecticut State Police and municipal police agencies gather to honor their fallen on Oct. 13, 2022, after the shooting of three Bristol police officers on Redstone Hill Road. Preliminary information appears to point to a 911 call that may have been a deliberate act to lure police to the scene.

Officials say two Bristol police officers may have been “lured” to their deaths Wednesday night when responding to a domestic violence 911 call. A third officer was seriously injured.

Domestic violence calls are the most dangerous for police officers in Connecticut. The calls make up the largest share of assaults on Connecticut officers.

An average of 275 assaults are documented each year, making up a little more than a third of all assaults against officers, according to an analysis of Connecticut State Police data by Connecticut Public’s Accountability Project.

It is one of the most dangerous calls you can get called to as a first responder,” said Meghan Scanlon, CEO of the Connecticut Coalition Against Domestic Violence. “I don’t think any department takes it lightly when they are responding to these situations.”

Wednesday's incident in Bristol may have been an ambush, which left Sgt. Dustin Demonte, 35, and Officer Alex Hamzy, 34, dead. Officer Alec Iurato, 26, was recovering from serious wounds.

Officials say a 911 call regarding a domestic dispute between two siblings was believed to be a “deliberate act.”

What happened to the Bristol police officers is called an “entrapment ambush,” said Eric Dlugolenski, a Central Connecticut State University professor and former West Haven police sergeant.

“The features of an entrapment ambush, essentially, is that it’s premeditated,” he said. “So you have someone essentially lying in wait. They have basically every advantage tactically on an officer that’s just going to another call.”

He said entrapment ambush against officers is rare. Based on national data, there’s an average of 200 to 215 incidents of officer ambush a year, Dlugolenski said.

“New England’s numbers have always been in the lowest category for ambushes,” he said. “So for Connecticut, this is a really new experience, and it’s something people are really reeling from.”

Scanlon added that fake calls of domestic violence are rare, making up less than 3% of domestic violence calls to her hotline.

We certainly don’t want it to send the wrong message in terms of people reaching out to either our hotline, CTSafeConnect, or to their local police department when they are really having an issue of domestic violence,” Scanlon said.

This year marks the 10th anniversary of the non-mandated Lethality Assessment Program in Connecticut – law enforcement’s response to intimate partner violence. Officers have screened more than 75,000 survivors for potential danger and helped connect people with resources.

Sujata Srinivasan is a Senior Producer for 'Where We Live,' the flagship news-based, call-in talk show from Connecticut Public Radio, featuring deep dives at the intersection of data-driven narrative and investigative long-form journalism. She's also an editor for the Connecticut Public newsroom.
Catherine Shen is a Connecticut Public’s education reporter. The Los Angeles native comes to CT Public after a decade of print and digital reporting across the country.