MERIDEN — A New Britain man was found hiding in a garage on Sunset Avenue early Thursday morning after a reported crash on the highway and a foot pursuit through several residential neighborhoods, police said. The incident prompted a large police response with state police and multiple K9 units searching the area.
Wally Little, 23, of 10 Grant St., Apt. 205, New Britain was arrested on Thursday and charged with reckless operation of a motor vehicle, engaging in pursuit, interfering with police, second-degree criminal trover, third-degree burglary and two counts of simple trespass.
State Police charged Little with evading responsibility, interfering with a police officer, driving under the influence, failure to maintain an established lane and operating without a motor vehicle license, Sgt.Chrsitine Jeltema said.
Jeltema did not state whether or not Little was subjected to a breathalyzer exam at the site of his arrest, but said troopers believed he was under the influence of alcohol “based on erratic operation and seeing the individual on scene.”
On Thursday around 8 a.m. an officer on patrol in the area of East Main Street by Gravel Street saw a vehicle with heavy damage. Less than a minute later state police sent out a notification that a vehicle crashed into guardrails on Interstate 691 and the driver fled the scene. The Meriden officer lost sight of the car but a short time later saw a man he believed was the driver walking in the area.
The vehicle operator on I-691 was reportedly driving erratically in a manner that suggested he may have been under the influence of alcohol, according to state police, who relayed this information to Meriden officers.
The officer tried to stop the man, later identified as Little, who took off running. The vehicle involved was found about 15 minutes later parked in the driveway of a home on Liberty Street, Lt. Darrin McKay said in a statement. Local and state police began searching the area and based on witness accounts of the man potentially having a weapon, a reverse 911 call was sent out to residents, McKay said. Police noted no weapon was found during the incident.
Out of an abundance of caution, Mayor Kevin Scarpati said, both Roger Sherman and Nathan Hale elementary schools were placed on lockout — allowing students and faculty to move about the campus, but preventing outsiders from entering the building.
Scarpati said Maloney High School was also placed on lockout after briefly entering a total lock down.
When arresting Little, state police K9s were in the area for training and responded to the search, along with two Meriden police K9s, McKay said. State police used a drone during the search and eventually Little was found hiding inside a detached garage of a home on Sunset Avenue, McKay said. McKay declined to disclose how police found Little.
The owner of the home, located at 40 Sunset Ave. — near East Main Street — said he was away at work and received a text message alerting him that Little was hiding in his garage. The owner said he did not discover any damaged items in the garage or on his property.
A second witness, Dennis Cardona, who lives across the street from the house where Little was detained, said officers combed the area, searching the outside of several homes, including his own, before locating Little.
Cardona described officers in the area as heavily armed and carrying “rifles” and said he locked his door and braced for a potential shootout in the area. Cardona said he did not hear shots fired and watched as police frisked Little and escorted him in handcuffs to a police cruiser.
“It was pretty wild,” Cardona said. “They [police] were checking all these houses. Every single house, and they were checking everything: bushes, trash cans and they were looking inside of vehicles.”
Cardona said he did not see or hear any signs of struggle between officers and Little and added that Little did not appear to be resisting arrest.
Little was being monitored on an ankle bracelet by the state Department of Probation. He is currently being held on $100,000 bond.
Police said they learned the car was stolen out of New Britain and the owner was not aware of the incident until local police informed them of the incident. There were no injuries reported.
Scarpati said residents flooded his office with calls and social media posts looking for updates on the incident and he assuaged concerns of any lingering danger to residents.
“I want to reassure our residents, many of which reached out or took to social media questioning what was happening,” Scarpati said. “You are safe.”