PHOTOS: Police surprise, chase and pepper-spray man inside downtown WRJ construction site
An employee at Northern Stage heard strange noises next door
WHITE RIVER JUNCTION - Hartford Police officers investigating strange banging noises coming from the darkened construction site for 'The Village' senior housing complex that is going up on Gates Street between Northern Stage's theater and the Methodist Church surprised a transient early Tuesday evening who took off running.
"He was coming out the gate here as we were walking up and then he ran back into the site," recalled Hartford Sgt. Karl Ebbighausen who along with Officer Sean Fernandes gave chase through the site which was lit by strings of construction lights hanging from steel ceiling girders above.
"It was quite the obstacle course," Ebbighausen said of the chase which zig-zagged for nearly a hundred yards before the police ended up face-to-face with the suspect, who was eventually identified as 34-year-old Steve Aspen.
Officers lead Aspen out of the construction site around 7:30 p.m. Tuesday evening
Aspen had been running toward the rear of the complex but he quickly encountered a series of chainlink fences on the far side of the property and so he turned toward the steep hillside, ducking under a run of scaffolding and heading upwards into what turned out to be a dead-end hemmed in by a solid wall of steel sheet piles that had been driven deep into the ground back in the summer.
When the officers caught up with Aspen in the tiny space he allegedly refused to allow them to handcuff him and kept pulling his arms and hands away from them. "He was fighting with us and yelling 'Don't spray me!' at the same time," Ebbighausen recalled.
Police ended up spraying Aspen with pepper-spray and then marching him out of the construction site in handcuffs back to Gates Street where they conducted a pat down search of all his pockets while Aspen yelled over and over about how much his eyes were stinging.
Officers pulled a serrated steak knife out of one of Aspen's pockets and also a series of plastic bags which they said contained a hypodermic needle and what appeared to be a "bindle" of what they suspected was heroin, although Aspen repeated denied that he'd had any drugs or alcohol Tuesday evening.
A large knife (on the ground near Aspen's boot) was pulled from one of Aspen's pockets
Officer Randy St. Peter (left) found a hypodermic needle in the packages that were pulled from Aspen's pockets
A Hartford Ambulance crew drove down from the fire department to decontaminate Aspen's eyes before he was placed in the back of a cruiser and transported to the police department where officers said they expected to charge him with criminal trespassing and resisting arrest.
Aspen was walked over to the ambulance and sat on the curb so his eyes could be flushed out
Sgt. Ebbighausen retraced the route of the foot chase looking for "a silver object" he thought he had seen Aspen wielding during the struggle in the dark
The blind corner under the scaffolding that the suspect turned and ran down
Ebbighausen checks around the dead-end where Aspen was sprayed and taken into custody...
...and realizes what he must have seen during the fight was Aspen supporting himself by grabbing onto a large screw that was protruding through the steel sheet piling.
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