BRISTOL - A local police officer has been recognized for his actions during a chaotic situation last month in which a suspect wielding what looked like an assault rifle refused to drop the gun.
Officer Vincenzo Infante has been given the Police Department Silver Star and has been named the employee of the month for October, police officials announced Monday.
While driving on routine patrol Oct. 4 at about 1:20 a.m., Infante pulled into the Davis Drive housing project and encountered a group of about 10 people standing in the middle of the road. At the center of the group was Jose Rivera, 40, holding a long gun and waving it around, according to police.
Infante immediately radioed for backup, got out of his cruiser and drew his handgun, yelling several times for Rivera to drop the gun. According to Infante, Rivera yelled back, telling him the gun was fake, and did not drop the weapon. As this was happening, multiple people ran away and a vehicle left the scene.
Infante said he continued to tell Rivera to drop the gun, but he refused, insisting it was not a real firearm. After the officer once again called for him to put down the weapon, Rivera finally dropped the gun behind a vehicle, put his hands up and walked toward Infante, according to police. The officer told him to get on the ground, but Rivera then began walking away, in the direction of some houses.
During this time, a number of other people in the immediate area also refused to get on the ground and were later charged after nearly everyone eventually complied with Infante’s commands to get down. The rifle Rivera was holding was then determined to be a BB gun.
During Rivera’s arraignment after his arrest, a state prosecutor said Infante would have been justified in shooting him during the hectic disturbance. The prosecutor even went on to say, had he been in Infante’s shoes, he would have fired.
According to the supervisor at the scene, Infante “maintained his composure during the incident despite the perceived danger to himself.”
“Through Infante’s skills, restraint, and diligence to duty, he caused a felon to be apprehended that may have been a detriment to public safety,” police wrote in announcing the officer’s award.
Justin Muszynski can be reached at 860-973-1809 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @muszynskiBP.