Shelton police chief: Three officers fired for dereliction of duty

Photo of Brian Gioiele

SHELTON — Police Chief Shawn Sequeira fired three police officers: two for allegedly failing to properly investigate a domestic violence complaint against another police officer and the third for allegedly covering it up.

Sequeira said an internal affairs investigation led to the termination of officers John Napoleone and Michael McClain and Lt. Dave Moore for dereliction of duty. Napoleone and Moore are the police union president and vice president, respectively.

“Domestic violence should not be ignored … and I sincerely apologize to the reported victim,” Sequeira said. “The actions of these officers are not a reflection of the Shelton Police Department. We stand for professionalism, respect and integrity. No misconduct such as this will be tolerated.”

The three Shelton officers were called to headquarters Monday afternoon and were asked to hand in their guns and clear out their lockers.

Union attorney Barbara Resnick called the dismissals “completely baseless and without just cause.”

Resnick said the officers will file grievances over the terminations.

“This is a pretextual resurrection of an investigation done by the chief and command staff over a year ago that found no misconduct whatsoever on the officers’ part,” Resnick said.

Sequeira said the initial internal affairs investigation began in August 2019 and was completed in November by Moore. The chief said the report, in which Moore cleared Napoleone and McClain, was found to be incomplete, leading to the additional internal affairs investigation.

More disciplinary actions are expected before the investigation is closed, Sequeira said.

The chief said Napoleone and McClain were fired for not properly investigating a complaint at the apartment of since-fired Bridgeport police officer Steven Figueroa and another Bridgeport police officer. Moore was fired, according to Sequeira, for attempting to “cover up” Napoleone and McClain’s “mishandling” of the incident.

According to the Figueroa’s arrest affidavit, a neighbor at his apartment complex called in a disturbance around 4:45 a.m. June 29, 2019, that woke up her and her daughter. She told police it was a “loud fight” and that “she could hear someone was being thrown to the ground several times and a woman crying and screaming.”

The witness told police, “the sounds were not that of just normal arguing, they were horrific and it sounded like extreme violence was taking place. I was in fear for the screaming woman and did not go back to sleep that night,” the affidavit said.

Napoleone and McClain were sent to check out the call but, Sequeira said, failed to perform a complete investigation. The two officers knocked on the door but did not identify themselves as Shelton police officers, he said.

The alleged victim later told police she heard knocks but could not respond because Figueroa had allegedly covered her mouth and threatened her if she made a sound, according to Sequeira. After Napoleone and McClain left, the victim was sexually assaulted, Sequeira said.

“You neglected to properly investigate the reported domestic violence incident and your dereliction to duty caused further harm and serious injury to the victim,” Sequeira wrote in the termination letters to Napoleone and McClain. “The fact that you did not perform a complete and thorough investigation resulted in you failing to speak with the known complainant, identify the involved parties and examine their criminal history amongst other critical investigatory steps.”

Figueroa had previously been arrested on breach of peace, harassment charges and for violation of a protective order.

“A proper interview would have revealed the identity of the Bridgeport Officer involved who was actually on administrative leave and previously arrested four times for domestic violence for which his firearms were seized by Bridgeport Police Department,” Sequeira wrote. “Domestic violence is a very serious matter and it’s extraordinarily important the victims be able to trust law enforcement to do their job properly. Your actions/inactions allowed for a further assault to take place.”

In the letters, Sequeira said “had it not been a Bridgeport Police Officer,” the investigation would have been handled differently.

Figueroa was ultimately charged with first-degree sexual assault, third-degree assault, unlawful restraint, threatening, risk of injury to a child and violating conditions of release for the June 29, 2019, Shelton case. Those charges are pending in court.

After Figueroa’s arrest, Shelton Police conducted an internal investigation, led by Moore, into the actions by Napoleone and McClain.

Napoleone and McClain stated during that investigation that the noise the neighbor heard was probably coming from a loud television. Sequeira said a second internal affairs investigation — including a text message provided by the dispatcher — proved that the officers had details that the apartment was home to the Bridgeport officers and cast doubt that the noise the neighbor heard was from a TV.

Moore’s investigation “knowingly and intentionally omitted vital information” in order to paint Napoleone and McClain in a better light, Sequeira said.

“There is clear and convincing information that your investigation report contained untruthful statements, omitted statements, contained false & misleading information, and showed a lack of integrity, which appeared to be compromised by your close relationships with the subjects,” Sequeira wrote in Moore’s termination letter.

Both Moore and McClain had been subject of numerous disciplinary measures, according to Sequeira, which also led to the decision to terminate.

In one instance Moore allegedly failed to properly supervise an investigation of a school bus driver who was driving under the influence, his termination letter stated.

Just like with the Figueroa incident, “it appears that the protection of fellow police officers is more important to you than the protection of the citizens of the City of Shelton,” Sequeira wrote.

Mayor Mark Lauretti said Monday that he expected the investigation would result in more disciplinary actions against other police department staff. He also said “There has been this parochial protectionism inherent in the union mindset” when it comes to policing known law enforcement officers who live in a community.

Lauretti said, at the end of the day, a woman was sexually assaulted.

“You will see more heads roll,” the mayor said. “This is a sad commentary, especially knowing something could have been done to prevent that.”