Published January 07. 2013 5:00PM Updated January 08. 2013 4:49PM
Norwich — Veteran Norwich police officer Jonathan Ley was shot a “number of times” Monday afternoon during an armed standoff with a “despondent, suicidal” man at the Cedar Glen Apartments on Cedar Street, police said.
Ley, a 1992 Norwich Free Academy graduate, was brought by ambulance to The William W. Backus Hospital and then flown by Life Star helicopter to Yale-New Haven Hospital where he was listed in critical condition. Late Monday night police were still trying to communicate with the gunman, who is in the large complex’s “D” building at 99 Cedar St. Just before 11 p.m., utility crews were preparing to shut off power to the building.
Police said the suspect was monitoring the situation on Facebook and social media but would not confirm whether he had posted anything. The suspect’s identity was not immediately released.
Witnesses said Ley was conscious, talking and squeezing the hand of one of his fellow officers as he was carried him out of the building after he was shot. Witnesses said he appeared to have been shot in the neck, shoulder and leg.
A woman who lives in the 63-unit, four-building complex, said she heard the gunman yell, “I wish it was his head.”
Ley served in the U.S Coast Guard and had been a Coast Guard reservist including an assignment in Bayonne, N.J., after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and in Kuwait in 2009. He has been a member of the police department since 1998 and in 2009 received a lifesaving award.
Police said at about 2:45 p.m., they received a report of a person announcing an intention “to commit suicide-by-cop,” a threat to provoke police into killing him. Officers set up a perimeter and began to attempt to communicate with the gunman. State police also responded with troopers and specialized equipment.
Beginning about 3:55 p.m., police said several shots were fired and the Norwich officer was struck a number of times. One witness said he heard police officers yell “We need more guns” after Ley was shot.
Apartment complex residents reported hearing about 30 shots that sounded as if they came from a rifle and handgun.
At the same time, a 14-year-old girl who lives in the apartment complex suffered a seizure after she saw the shot officer and had to be brought to the hospital, according to her father, Steven Bartlett.
“It was crazy. I’ll doubt I’ll sleep tonight,” he said.
Large numbers of local and state police officers, as well as several ambulances, descended on the complex as residents were evacuated. Some residents said police told them to stay close to the building and the run for safety.
Kelly Middle School was opened to house evacuees who needed shelter. According to Sue Rochester-Bolen, the head of the local chapter of the American Red Cross, there were 13 people at the shelter Monday night.
Around 9 p.m. police were able to evacuate 89-year-old Carmen Paboncoto, who remained in her apartment for several hours of the ordeal. Officers rolled Paboncoto in a gurney down the steep Cedar Street to a warming trailer set up on Happy Street.
New London police officer Jim Suarez was also on scene to act as a Spanish translator for other residents who have been unable to evacuate.
At the start of Monday night’s City Council meeting, Mayor Peter Nystrom asked the audience to pray silently for the police officer who was shot, saying he was in critical but stable condition.
The armed standoff just a short distance from City Hall cast a somber tone over the first council meeting of the year, which features the mayor’s State of the City address.
Nystrom praised the city police department, its recently revived community policing effort and its work with city schools to restore school resource officers lost to budget cuts.
“One only has to look within this state to see the value of SRO’s and DARE officers in preventing tragedies,” Nystrom said. “The men and women of the Norwich Police Department have done an outstanding job during this past year, and I want to recognize them for their day to day efforts. The Police Department was successful in its application request for a highly competitive federal COPs grant that is providing federal funding for four police officers to augment our locally funded staffing for the City’s community policing program.”