Dozens of New Canaan Police officers, their families and town residents and officials gathered under a tent outside the department’s South Avenue headquarters Thursday to recognize those who have been promoted within NCPD and those who have demonstrated excellence to earn special awards.

L-R: Officers Giancarlo Vincenzi, Emily Clark, Erin McCarthy and Rex Sprosta, Lt. Joe Farenga and Chief Leon Krolikowski at the May 27, 2021 promotion and awards ceremony outside the New Canaan Police Department. Credit: Michael Dinan

Police Chief Leon Krolikowski told those in attendance on a clear, comfortable evening that the ceremony is designed “to celebrate the accomplishments of many officers.”

“We typically host our awards ceremony once a year—however, due to the pandemic we were unable to do so last year,” Krolikowski said.

Two officers were recognized for promotions, while several officers received Unit citation Awards for handling sensitive and dangerous encounters and situations during the past year-plus. One officer received a Meritorious Duty Award, two received awards for marksmanship and two for physical fitness excellence. Seven officers were recognized for career milestones. Many of those honored were multiple award recipients.  

L-R: Officers Kelly Coughlin, Nicole Vartuli, Emily Clark, Annamaria Ceci and Erin McCarthy at the May 27, 2021 promotion and awards ceremony outside the New Canaan Police Department. Credit: Michael Dinan

The chief’s in-depth descriptions of volatile encounters provided new details to police actions during some of New Canaan’s most high-profile arrests of the past year-plus, as well as incidents that had not been reported before.

“This past year has been challenging for all of us—the pandemic, protests and calls for police accountability created new challenges that I am proud to say we handled well,” the chief said. “This evening you will learn how this past year well our officers handled a variety of difficult incidents with the utmost expertise.”

The ceremony opened with a prayer led by Bill Santulli, deacon of St. Aloysius Church. Those in attendance included First Selectman Kevin Moynihan as well as Police Commission Chair Paul Foley, Secretary Jim McLaughlin and member Shekaiba Bennett.

Lt. Joe Farenga at the May 27, 2021 promotion and awards ceremony outside the New Canaan Police Department. Credit: Michael Dinan

Promotions

Krolikowski started with the promotions of Lt. Joseph Farenga and Sgt. Michael O’Sullivan, both veterans of NCPD for 20-plus years.

Farenga is commander of the department’s Special Response Team, and has earned several commendations including the Mothers Against Drunk Driving award five times and has several meritorious duty awards, Krolikowski said.

“Lt. Farenga is professional, compassionate, and dedicated to our department,” he said.

New Canaan Police Sgt. Michael O’Sullivan with son Mike O’Sullivan at the May 27, 2021 promotion and awards ceremony outside the New Canaan Police Department. Credit: Michael Dinan

O’Sullivan, the department’s Youth Officer and our Domestic Violence Coordinator developed and introduced the department’s Community Outreach and Support Team to provide support and resources to those with mental health and substance abuse issues. He also has received several awards including Officer of the Year in 2018, the First 100 Award given by the CT Coalition Against Domestic Violence and the Police Cross Award, which is the highest award earned by an officer in more than 26 years. 

“Sgt. O’Sullivan is a caring, professional, and dedicated officer,” the chief said. “He takes his profession seriously and hold himself to the highest standards.”

Candice Nistico and Sgt. David Payne at the May 27, 2021 promotion and awards ceremony outside the New Canaan Police Department. Credit: Michael Dinan

Unit citation Award (Sgt. David Payne and Officers Thomas Patten, Thomas Callinan, Owen Ochs, Clinton Jarvis and Kelly Coughlin)

Before dawn on New Year’s Day 2020, police received a call regarding an alarm activation at Acme on Elm Street.

“Officer Jarvis dispatched officers to the activated alarm,” Krolikowski said. “Officer Coughlin arrived on scene and found Acme’s two front doors secure. As she walked around the west side of the building, she heard voices. She discovered three males in their late teens or early twenties in the southwest corner of the building holding paper goods in their hands.”

The men ran toward the back of the building. Callinan saw where two of the suspects were running away on Grove Street, while Coughlin ran after the third suspect, who went into the woods.

NCPD Officer Kelly Coughlin and Deputy Chief John DiFederico at the May 27, 2021 promotion and awards ceremony outside the New Canaan Police Department. Credit: Michael Dinan

“Officer Ochs arrived on scene and caught up to Officer Coughlin and the suspect in the woods,” he said. “Together they detained and handcuffed the suspect. Sergeant Payne searched Acme for further evidence and documented the scene. A search warrant was applied for and signed by a judge at Norwalk Superior Court to allow Detective Patten to forensically examine one of the suspect’s cellphones.”

Patten put investigative skills to use, processing the and discovering evidence “that was helpful in obtaining an arrest warrant for the suspects,” the chief said.

“The suspects were arrested and prosecuted for their crimes,” Krolikowski said. “This is a great example of team work.”

L-R: Officers Emily Clark, Joseph Schinella and Dan Gulino, Sgt. David Payne and Chief Leon Krolikowski at the May 27, 2021 promotion and awards ceremony outside the New Canaan Police Department. Credit: Michael Dinan

Meritorious Duty (Officer Dan Gulino) and Unit citation Award (Lt. Carol Ogrinc, Payne and Officers Roberto Lopez, Sebastian Obando, Matthew Blank, Emily Clark and Joseph Schinella)

Blank “could not be with us tonight as he is currently on military leave,” Krolikowski said.

“Please keep him in your thoughts and prayers,” he said.

At about 8:15 p.m. on April 10, 2020, Blank, Obando, Clark and Lopez were dispatched to Millport Avenue on a report of a victim being threatened with a knife. 

 Obando was first on scene “and made contact with the victim,” Krolikowski said.

“The victim informed him that his son was upstairs in their home with his wife and two children and was acting violently,” the chief said. “Officer Obando made his way up a stairwell and announced he was with the New Canaan Police Department. The door to the apartment opened slightly and Officer Obando commanded the individual to come out slowly with their hands up.”

Obando couldn’t determine whether the person exiting the apartment was the suspect so he “continued to command the individual to come out slowly and show their hands,” Krolikowski said.

New Canaan Police Chief Leon Krolikowski addresses those gathered for a promotion and award ceremony outside headquarters on May 27, 2021. Photo courtesy of NCPD

“He had his duty weapon out and pointed at the door frame,” the chief said. “The individual came out with hand out the door. He instructed the individual to continue to come out slowly.”

Obando recognized that that person was yet another victim, according to Krolikowski. Other offices arrived and Payne provided Lopez with the ballistic shield, he said.

“Officer Lopez positioned himself with the ballistic shield on the far right side, Officer Schinella positioned himself on the left of Officer Lopez with his Taser out and Officer Obando was positioned on the far left side with his duty weapon out,” the chief said. “Officer Obando continued to speak with the suspect through the door to the apartment.”

The suspect refused to emerge, saying he would not leave the apartment “and that if anyone attempted to open the door he would shoot everyone and that he had a firearm,” the chief said.

New Canaan Police Officer Rex Sprosta and Chief Leon Krolikowski at a promotion and award ceremony outside headquarters on May 27, 2021. Photo courtesy of NCPD

Gulino, who is trained in hostage negotiations, arrived on scene and “took the lead communicating with the suspect,” according to Krolikowski.

“At one point the suspect stated he was going to come out of the apartment and stab officers,” he said.

“Officer Gulino continued to speak calmly to the suspect building rapport with him. At this time members of the department’s Special Response Team arrived to assist. Eventually Officer Gulino convinced the suspect to release two more victims. Officer Gulino continued to speak with the suspect for another fifteen minutes until he convinced him to surrender peacefully.”

The suspect was taken into custody by the NCPD Special Response Team and transported to a hospital for evaluation.

“This is another great display of how well our officers are trained at handling stressful and dangerous situations,” the chief said. “They are and true heroes of our community. Congratulations on a job well done.”

Officers Bryan Connolly and Christopher Dewey at the May 27, 2021 promotion and awards ceremony outside the New Canaan Police Department. Credit: Michael Dinan

Unit citation Award (Farenga and Officers Bryan Connolly, Christopher Dewey, David Rivera, Jarvis, Obando and Nicole Vartuli)

At about 11 p.m. on July 15, 2020 Connolly and Obando responded to a report of two suspects trying to enter vehicles in the area of Weed Street and Marshall Ridge Road. Vartuli, the desk officer, provided them with a description of the suspects and their direction of travel. Farenga, Connolly, Jarvis and Obando “began to drive through the area in an attempt to locate any individuals matching the description,” the chief said.

“Officer Obando started to patrol Ashe Tree Lane and he observed a juvenile laying under a large bush,” Krolikowski said. “Officer Obando exited his vehicle and started to approach the suspect, commanding him to stay in his position on the ground. The suspect disobeyed Officer Obando’s orders and ran into the woods.”

Obando notified other units while searching for more suspects and found one hiding under a car in an Ash Tree Lane driveway. 

“Officer Obando had his flashlight and Taser on the suspect. He instructed the suspect to stay where he was. At this time, Lt. Farenga, Officer Dewey and Officer Jarvis arrived on scene and the suspect was handcuffed.”

Rivera and the department’s K9 dog, Apollo, arrived on scene “to assist with a canvass of the area and to track the initial suspect Officer Obando encountered and had run off into the woods.” 

Dewey found a second suspect hiding in a ditch with a ladder, who also was taken into custody. About 30 minutes later, a resident of Ash Tree Lane yelled to officers that he saw someone running through his back yard. Farenga, Dewey, Rivera and Obando “ran towards the back the residence and could hear an individual yell as if he was in pain,” the chief said.

“Officers discovered a third juvenile laying down in the woods in pain,” Krolikowski said. “He stated he had hurt his knee. EMS responded and transported the suspect to the hospital for treatment with Officer Connolly following behind.  All arrestees were juveniles. Again, this is a great example of how well our officers work together to deter crime and keep New Canaan safe.” 

Daniele Schinella, Officer Joseph Schinella, Savannah Viggiano, Cathy Schinella and Michael Schinella at the May 27, 2021 promotion and awards ceremony outside the New Canaan Police Department. Credit: Michael Dinan

Unit citation Award (Farenga, Payne, and Officers Annamaria Ceci, Erin McCarthy, Giancarlo Vincenzi and Nicholas Rienzi)

Ceci while working as dispatch officer on Jan. 27 took an Urban Street homeowner’s call stating he could see two men searching through vehicles on his street. 

The suspects were seen driving in a red vehicle with a loud exhaust, Krolikowski said.

Vincenzi, McCarthy, Rienzi along with their supervisors, Farenga and Payne arrived on scene simultaneously, according to the chief.

“Lt. Farenga and Sgt. Payne observed the suspect’s vehicle drive past them in the opposite direction,” he said. “A short time later, Officer Rienzi observed the suspect’s vehicle abandoned on Canoe Hill Road where it had crashed. Officer Rienzi and Lt. Farenga saw footprints in the snow leading away from the vehicle.”

They followed the footprints while Payne arrived on the scene of the crash and stayed with the vehicle and Ceci contacted Norwalk Police Department and requested a K-9 unit respond to the scene to assist with tracking the suspects. 

Megan Mitchell and NCPD Officer Nicholas Rienzi, at the May 27, 2021 promotion and awards ceremony outside the New Canaan Police Department. Credit: Michael Dinan

“New Canaan and Norwalk officers followed two sets of footprints through the snow but were unable to locate the suspects,” Krolikowski said. “However, they discovered footprints leading up to several cars along the way as if they had attempted to gain entry and steal the vehicle.”

Police soon found another set of footprints that they followed to Brushy Ridge Road near Garibaldi Lane. Rienzi notified fellow officers over the radio that he saw a vehicle in the distance being started in a nearby driveway. He then reported that a suspect had stolen a vehicle from a driveway on Brushy Ridge Rd and was headed toward Route 123.

“Officer Rienzi stated over the radio that the vehicle had struck several small trees and bushes on Brushy Ridge Road causing property damage to several residences,” Krolikowski said. “Lt. Farenga and Officer Vincenzi set-up at the intersection of Brushy Ridge Rd and Route 123 in an effort to locate the stolen vehicle.”

A few minutes later, the officers saw the stolen car drive by “at an extremely high rate of speed nearly striking their police cruiser.”

The driver tore off through town and eventually crashed on Lambert Road, where Rienzi apprehended a suspect. 

“This particular case highlights the level of risk our officers deal with each and every day,” Krolikowski said. “It also shows how well trained our officers are and their dedication to keeping New Canaan safe.”

L-R: NCPD Officer Rex Sprosta, Lt. Marc DeFelice and Officer Thomas Patten at the May 27, 2021 promotion and awards ceremony outside the New Canaan Police Department. Credit: Michael Dinan

Unit citation Award (Farenga and Officers Rex Sprosta—the 2020 Officer of the Year— Rivera, Jarvis, Clark, McCarthy and Vincenzi)

At about 2:51 a.m. on Feb. 21, Farenga, Sprosta, Rivera, Clark, McCarthy and Vincenzi were dispatched to the Mobil Station on South Avenue. There, the gas station attendant called 911 on behalf of a customer who had pulled into the station stating he had a passenger in his vehicle with a gun and that he wanted to shoot himself, Krolikowski said.

Vincenzi approached the vehicle from the rear passenger side and had his duty weapon drawn at the low-ready position, the chief said.

Officer Roy Adams with family, baby Nora, Michelle and Conner at the May 27, 2021 promotion and awards ceremony outside the New Canaan Police Department. Credit: Michael Dinan

“He held his cover position behind the rear passenger side of the vehicle while Officer Rivera positioned himself at the front driver’s side of the vehicle and Lt. Farenga and Officer Sprosta were at the passenger side,” Krolikowski said.

The three officers had their weapons drawn at the low-ready position, while Rivera began talking to driver of the vehicle. 

“He asked the driver repeatedly to show his hands,” Krolikowski said. “Officer Rivera asked the  individual if he had a gun and the individual confirmed that. Officer Rivera repeatedly instructed the individual to place the individual’s hands on the steering wheel and unlock the door. The individual would not comply with Officer Rivera’s requests. Officer Rivera stated that while the individual was in the vehicle, he observed the individual mouth ‘shoot me.’ The individual later told officers he lied about the gun because the individual wanted to die.”

After a few minutes, Farenga broke the front passenger side window to gain entry and unlock the vehicle. When he did, Rivera was able to take the individual out of the vehicle. 

“The individual was placed in a waiting ambulance and transported to the hospital for a psychiatric evaluation,” Krolikowski said. “Officer McCarthy accompanied the individual in the ambulance. This incident could have ended very tragically if it were not for our very well trained officers. This is also an example of how our officers encounter potentially deadly situations and need to make split second decisions.”

Lane LaTourette and Sgt. Aaron LaTourette at the May 27, 2021 promotion and awards ceremony outside the New Canaan Police Department. Credit: Michael Dinan

Additional Awards

Lt. Marc DeFelice and Sgt. Aaron LaTourette received awards for their shooting skills. DeFelice won the Perkin Award while LaTourette won the Commissioners’ Shoot for his marksmanship. 

Dewey received the Chief’s Award of Excellence for Physical Fitness for 2020 and Connolly earned the Commissioners’ Physical Fitness Award for 2020. The department’s fitness test includes a 1.5-mile run, bench press, agility course and flexibility test. 

Capt. Andrew Walsh at the May 27, 2021 promotion and awards ceremony outside the New Canaan Police Department. Credit: Michael Dinan

The following members of NCPD received a plaque in recognition of serving 20-plus years with the department: Capt. Andrew Walsh, Sgt. John Milligan, LaTourette, Sgt. Brian Mitchell, O’Sullivan, Officer Roy Adams and Patten.

“Your faithful and dedicated service for over 20 years to the New Canaan Police Department has not gone unnoticed,” Krolikowski said.

Conclusion

Sgt. John Milligan at the May 27, 2021 promotion and awards ceremony outside the New Canaan Police Department. Credit: Michael Dinan

The ceremony concluded after about one hour.

Krolikowski said the department was “exceptionally proud to honor our officers today.” 

“They did what was right as they selflessly protected and served our town, and saved lives,” he said. “Although New Canaan is an exceptionally safe town, it is not immune to crime or dangerous situations. As you can see from the incidents I spoke about tonight, our officers have to be ready a moment’s notice for whatever call comes in. We are very fortunate to have such well-trained, compassionate, and professional officers.”



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‘We Are Very Fortunate’: New Canaan Police Officers Honored for Excellence and Service

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