Police: Officers may have been lured into deadly ambush

BRISTOL, Conn. (AP) — Two police officers who were shot dead in Connecticut had apparently been drawn into an ambush by an emergency call about possible domestic violence, authorities said Thursday. A third officer was wounded in the gunfire.

State police said in a release that the 911 call Wednesday night about a dispute between two siblings appears to have been “a deliberate act to lure law enforcement to the scene” in Bristol.

Bristol Police Sgt. Dustin Demonte and Officer Alex Hamzy were killed. Officer Alec Iurato was injured.

Police said the suspect, Nicholas Brutcher, 35, was shot dead, and his brother Nathan Brutcher was wounded. The surviving brother, 32, was hospitalized, and it wasn’t immediately clear whether he or his family have an attorney or someone else who can speak for them.

Neighbor Danny Rodriguez said he was outside his home across the street when the gunfire rang out.

“I heard a whole war going on behind me,” he said. “It was so loud and crazy.”

At one point, he said, a woman screamed, “You … killed them!”

The deadly encounter came during a week when at least 11 police officers have been shot around the country.

Nationwide, 54 officers have died by gunfire on the job so far this year, compared to 62 throughout 2021, according to the Officer Down Memorial Page, a nonprofit organization that tracks U.S. police officer deaths. (This year’s overall number is far behind last year’s pace, largely due to declining deaths from COVID-19.)

Connecticut state police said they were still working to answer many questions that remained about the confrontation. No video of it has emerged publicly.

State Police Sgt. Christine Jeltema said that when officers answered the call at roughly 10:30 p.m., they encountered someone outside the house, and shots were fired.

Neighbors said they heard two or three sets of gunshots, about 30 in all.

Schalitda Strong, who lives diagonally across the street from the shooting, said she ducked into her room “because it sounded so close.” Strong said she called 911, but police were already on their way.

Police haven’t yet said who opened fire, who fired the fatal shots, or how many guns were fired in all.

“They thought they were going somewhere to give help, and their lives were needlessly taken, and another seriously injured,” Bristol Police Chief Brian Gould said at a vigil Thursday evening. Gov. Ned Lamont and Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz joined the crowd that packed a local high school auditorium to pay respects.

Demonte, 35, was a 10-year veteran officer and co-recipient of his department’s 2019 Officer of the Year award.

He was “very focused on his career and furthering his career and education,” the chief said. Demonte, who earned a bachelor’s degree in criminology, had worked as a school resource officer. He and his wife were expecting their third child, Gould said.

Philip Demonte Jr. called his brother “an all-around good guy” with a great sense of humor.

“No one had anything bad to say” about him, his brother said. “Terrible loss, someone who died for no reason.”

Hamzy, 34, had gotten many letters of commendation during his eight years on his hometown police force, the chief said. Like Demonte, Hamzy was an advisor to a police cadet program.

“The outpouring of love, support and prayers from so many is deeply appreciated,” Hamzy’s family said in a statement.

Scores of officers lined a street and followed a vehicle carrying Hamzy’s body from the shooting scene late Thursday morning. Demonte died at a hospital.

Iurato, 26, joined the Bristol department in 2018 and has a bachelor’s degree in government, law and national security, the chief said. Iurato was released from a hospital Thursday morning.

Bristol, about 15 miles (24 kilometers) southwest of the state capital of Hartford, is home to about 60,000 people and to the sports network ESPN.

The governor called the shooting “a senseless tragedy,” ordering flags to be lowered to half-staff in the officers’ honor.

It followed shootings of police officers this week in Greenville, Mississippi; Decatur, Illinois; Philadelphia,Las Vegas and central Florida. Two of those officers, one in Greenville and one Las Vegas, were killed. And in North Carolina on Thursday evening, a police officer was among five people killed in a shooting in a residential area.

The last Connecticut law enforcement officer shot to death while on duty was Newington Officer Peter Lavery, who was killed while responding to a domestic violence call in 2004.

Additionally, New Haven Officer Robert Fumiatti died in 2007, five years after being shot during a drug investigation. A medical examiner said he died of a heart problem, but his name was added to a national memorial for fallen police officers after his family argued that his health problem was related to his healed gunshot wound.

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This story was first published Oct. 13, 2022. It was updated Oct. 14, 2022, to correct the last time a police officer was fatally shot while on duty in Connecticut. It occurred in 2004, not in 1918. The story was previously updated to correct the spelling of the name of the wounded officer. His name is Alec Iurato, not Alex Iarato.

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Peltz reported from New York. Associated Press writers Susan Haigh in Hartford, Connecticut, and Karen Matthews in New York contributed to this report.

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