Trou­bled his­tory with po­lice cli­maxed in fa­tal shoot­ing

Connecticut Post (Sunday) - - Front Page - By Rob Ryser and Zach Mur­dock

DANBURY — For a man prone to al­co­hol abuse, street bel­liger­ence and fights with the law, Paul Ar­bitelle’s vi­o­lent death at the hands of Danbury po­lice on Dec. 29 seems as though it closes the book on a life of trou­ble.

But this is more than a crime story.

As the probe into the fa­tal po­lice shoot­ing of 45- year- old Ar­bitelle and the se­ri­ous wound­ing of his mother en­ters its sec­ond week, fam­ily and friends are wait­ing for in­ves­ti­ga­tors to de­ter­mine ex­actly what hap­pened in the fi­nal mo­ments of his life, as he con­fronted two of­fi­cers with a knife.

If Ar­bitelle’s long ar­rest record is any guide, his con­fronta­tion with two po­lice of­fi­cers in front of his

mother’s apart­ment that Satur­day night was part of a life­long pat­tern with the law that in­volved al­co­hol, ag­i­ta­tion and ag­gres­sion.

“You see his his­tory and his be­hav­ior, and I don’t know the root cause of it,” said Pa­trick Cal­la­han, a chief pro­ba­tion of­fi­cer in Danbury who su­per­vised Ar­bitelle’s pro­ba­tion cases. “It’s a sad thing when any­one loses a life, but I just don’t know what hap­pened with this man.”

Whether the two Danbury of­fi­cers re­spond­ing on Dec. 29 to a 911 call of a man with a knife rec­og­nized Ar­bitelle as the ex- con­vict who had done com­bat with city of­fi­cers twice in the last six years, in­ves­ti­ga­tors have not said. In­ves­ti­ga­tors have re­leased few de­tails about the fa­tal shoot­ing, in­clud­ing the of­fi­cers’ names.

Ar­bitelle was cer­tainly easy enough to rec­og­nize, how­ever — with a ser­pent tat­tooed un­der his right eye and a skull tat­tooed on the left side of his face. He also had swastikas and “white power” tat­tooed on his body.

Although city of­fi­cials and po­lice have said they are with­hold­ing key in­for­ma­tion to be sure all the de­tails are ac­cu­rate as part of the in­ves­ti­ga­tion re­port, they have al­ready said the use of deadly force was jus­ti­fied.

Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton sug­gested in­ves­ti­ga­tors from the state po­lice West­ern Dis­trict Ma­jor Crime Squad would de­ter­mine the shoot­ing was in self- de­fense.

Where the con­clu­sion of the po­lice in­ves­ti­ga­tion will leave Danbury is un­clear. The city has not had an on- duty po­lice of­fi­cer fire a gun at a sus­pect in 20 years, as far as any­one can re­call.

The fam­ily has de­clined to say any­thing pub­licly about the death of Paul Ar­bitelle or the shoot­ing of his mother, 74- year- old Linda Ar­bitelle, ex­cept through a lawyer.

At­tor­ney Robert Berke filed no­tice the mother will sue the city for dam­ages. The at­tor­ney said he is work­ing with Ar­birtelle’s daugh­ter be­cause Lidna Ar­bitelle re­mains in crit­i­cal con­di­tion at Danbury Hos­pi­tal.

Mean­while, the fam­ily is griev­ing the loss of a com­bat­ive son, who had a con­sid­er­ate side that sur­faced in court, ac­cord­ing to one at­tor­ney who rep­re­sented him.

“I re­mem­ber that ser­pent tat­too, and I re­mem­ber him as a de­light­ful gen­tle­man,” said An­gel­ica Pa­pas­tavros, now an as­sis­tant pub­lic de­fender in New Haven, who rep­re­sented Ar­bitelle in 2011, when he was con­victed of a racially mo­ti­vated as­sault on a black man in Danbury. “He would say, ‘ Yes, An­gel­ica, no An­gel­ica,’ and I was able to have cor­dial con­ver­sa­tion with him.”

“You see his his­tory and his be­hav­ior, and I don’t know the root cause of it.” Pa­trick Cal­la­han, pro­ba­tion of­fi­cer in Danbury

Con­stant con­flict

Ar­bitelle’s life was punc­tu­ated and de­fined by his fights with the law.

His pa­per trail of ar­rests, court ap­pear­ances and con­vic­tions tells a story that is heavy on crim­i­nal ac­tiv­ity. As a man who was on pro­ba­tion five times in 10 years and who was re­leased in Oc­to­ber from the max­i­mum se­cu­rity MacDougall- Walker Cor­rec­tional In­sti­tu­tion in Suffield, there is lit­tle ev­i­dence in pub­licly avail­able records about his work life.

“I don’t know what his is­sue was or why he kept get­ting ar­rested,” said Cal­la­han, the chief pro­ba­tion of­fi­cer.

Nor is there much record of a so­cial life. Ar­bitelle is listed as a mem­ber of the Danbury High School class of 1992, but there is no sign of him in his se­nior year­book.

A cryp­tic en­try un­der the ti­tle of “News Of The Weird” that ap­peared in The Chicago Tri­bune in 1992 notes that a 17- year- old Paul Ar­bitelle in Danbury was ac­cused of at­tempt­ing to kill his mother with a hatchet af­ter “she failed to prop­erly toast” his bagel.

Af­ter that, Ar­bitelle’s name ap­pears fre­quently in court fil­ings and crim­i­nal his­tory search records, show­ing 11 ar­rests and 10 guilty pleas, rang­ing from lar­ceny, ha­rass­ment and as­sault con­vic­tions to re­sist­ing ar­rest, in­ter­fer­ing with law en­force­ment, and as­sault­ing a po­lice of­fi­cer.

In par­tic­u­lar, Ar­bitelle was found guilty of as­sault­ing a Danbury po­lice of­fi­cer in 2016, and as­sault­ing two Danbury po­lice of­fi­cers in 2011.

In the older case, he was ac­cused of fight­ing with of­fi­cers who were tak­ing him into cus­tody af­ter he at­tacked a black man in Danbury. Ar­bitelle’s lawyer told the judge that Ar­bitelle was “com­pletely drunk,” “off his med­i­ca­tions,” and was “re­ally em­bar­rassed by this.”

The at­tor­ney also told the judge the white su­prem­a­cist tat­toos on Ar­bitelle’s body were old marks that didn’t rep­re­sent his feel­ings any­more.

Sev­eral tat­too artists in Danbury said they did not rec­og­nize Ar­bitelle’s tat­toos com­ing from any of the city’s rep­utable shops. One artist said Ar­bitelle’s tat­toos looked like pri­son tat­toos.

The fi­nal fight

Ar­bitelle was out of pri­son only two months when he fought with po­lice for the last time.

Po­lice have said lit­tle about the ex­act cir­cum­stances of the 9: 30 p. m. shoot­ing out­side the Glen Apart­ments se­nior hous­ing com­plex on Memo­rial Drive, ex­cept for a one- para­graph re­lease.

But neigh­bors say a fam­ily ar­gu­ment es­ca­lated quickly into a tense show­down with of­fi­cers.

When of­fi­cers ar­rived, they saw Ar­bitelle ap­pear­ing in­tox­i­cated and wield­ing a knife.

Po­lice said one of­fi­cer fired a stun gun, but it did not stop Ar­bitelle’s ad­vance. An­other of­fi­cer fired mul­ti­ple shots at him, strik­ing him at least once.


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