HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — A police officer was killed and another was seriously injured Wednesday night when their cruiser was struck by a car speeding through a red light while fleeing a traffic stop in Connecticut’s capital city, authorities said. The driver of the car was arrested.
Officer Robert “Bobby” Garten, 34, an eight-year veteran of Hartford police whose father retired as a detective on the force, died from his injuries, police said. Officer Brian Kearney was seriously injured and was listed as stable at a local hospital. Other details of his condition were not disclosed.
“This is a devastating loss for our community, for our department, and our whole city is grieving this morning,” Mayor Luke Bronin said at a news conference Thursday. “Bobby loved this city. … He served this city with courage and compassion and tremendous skill and dedication.”
Police Chief Jason Thody said Garten was in the passenger’s seat and Kearney was driving the cruiser with its emergency lights and siren on as they responded to an unrelated call at about 10:30 p.m. Wednesday. Another car that had fled a traffic stop by other officers smashed into the passenger’s side of the cruiser just west of downtown Hartford.
The driver of the car, Richard Barrington, 18, of Hartford, was treated at a hospital, discharged and arrested, police said. He was charged with failure to obey a traffic control signal, failure to renew registration, misuse of plates and interfering with police.
A state judge set bail at $1 million as Barrington appeared in court later Thursday. Hartford State’s Attorney Sharmese Walcott said more serious charges could be added, including homicide and assault. Barrington’s public defender, Hannah Dean, said $1 million bail was too high for the current charges against him and asked for $100,000 bail.
Officials said Barrington, a high school junior, has no previous criminal record and had only a learner’s permit to drive, not a license.
Dean did not immediately return email and phone messages seeking additional comment on the allegations.
Other officers had pulled over Barrington after he disobeyed a traffic signal and they checked his license plate, which showed the car’s registration had been canceled, Thody said. While officers approached the car, Barrington sped away, drove through one red light and went through another red light before crashing into Garten and Kearney’s cruiser, he said.
The other officers did not chase after Barrington when he fled the traffic stop, the police chief said.
Early Thursday morning, a procession of police transported Garten’s body from the hospital to the chief medical examiner’s office in Farmington. Gov. Ned Lamont later directed all state and U.S. flags in Connecticut to be flown at half-staff in Garten’s memory.
Garten grew up in nearby Wethersfield and enjoyed going to the now-defunct Hartford Whalers NHL hockey games as a kid and Hartford Yard Goats minor league baseball games as an adult, Bronin and Thody said.
Garten worked patrol walking city streets before joining the department’s street crimes unit two years ago, Thody said. The unit focuses on gun violence and taking firearms off the street, Thody said.
“I think if you ask anybody in the police department about him, they’ll say he was the guy that was always smiling,” Thody said. “Really loved the work when he got on the job. Was one of those officers that really wanted to excel and do different things. … He was a great man.”
Thody said state police are investigating the crash.
Funeral arrangements were not immediately announced.