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State Police to begin new effort with SPD

Date: 8/2/2013

By G. Michael Dobbs

SPRINGFIELD – The State Police’s Community Action Team (CAT) will be working with the Springfield Police Department starting this week in response to a request by Mayor Domenic Sarno.

James Leydon, Sarno’s Communications director, confirmed to Reminder Publications that a written request to Col. Timothy Alben, superintendent of the Massachusetts State Police, was quickly followed by a conversation on July 29 between Sarno, Police Commissioner William Fitchet and Alben.

Later that day Fitchet met with State Police officials to discuss deployment strategies, Leydon said. He added those plans are not being made public.

In his letter to Alben, Sarno noted the CAT’s activities would be funded by $100,000 secured by state Sen. James Welch.

Sarno wrote, “With the additional presence of CAT, along with the city’s own Badge Unit, Downtown Public Safety Initiative, and the Mason Square Initiative, we will have the tools necessary to combat these criminal elements and maintain an increased presence in the lower Forest Park Neighborhood, Mason Square, in the downtown area and the entertainment district, especially during late night hours and closing time.”

He add, “Again, these incidents are not random; they are drug or gang related and will not be tolerated. I have no doubt that with the combined presence of CAT and the city’s own police resources we will be taking the appropriate steps to making a positive impact on our city’s neighborhoods.”

Sarno’s request for assistance came after a series of incidences that took place from July 25 through July 27.

Two of the arrests came in conjunction with a shooting in Stearns Square that took place at nearly 2 a.m. on July 26. According to Springfield Police Sgt. John Delaney, “At 1:50 a.m., Sgt. Julio Toledo was working in the downtown Entertainment District for bar closings when he observed a commotion going on in front of the Glo Night Club at 278 Worthington St. Toledo got closer and walked down the street as the disturbance and large group of people moved towards Worthington Street and Sterns Square. Toledo heard several shots being fired and onlookers and participants were running in all directions. Toledo could see a subject later identified as Junito Batista with a smoking gun in his hand. Toledo chased this subject towards Bridge Street where he was almost struck by a white Dodge Charger. Toledo gave out the description of the Charger after almost getting killed by it and continued to chase the armed and dangerous suspect on foot. Toledo kept giving out his location on the radio and Officer Matt Benoit joined the pursuit and tackled Batista to the ground. The officers disarmed the suspect and seized a .9mm Smith & Wesson semi automatic handgun.”

Delaney continued, “Officers in the downtown area spotted the fleeing white Dodge Charger that Toledo was almost struck by and attempted to pull it over on Carew Street as it was traveling at a high rate of speed. The Charger refused to pull over and the officers followed it to the Baystate Medical Center Emergency Room where it pulled into the parking lot. The driver of the car attempted to help the passenger out of the car. The passenger was grazed by a bullet at Stearns Square, the scene of the recent shooting witnessed by Toledo. Officers arrested the driver of the Charger because they found a large amount of marijuana packaged for sale and pills. There was also an open container of Hennessy in the middle console. The driver did not have a license and the Charger was reported stolen from Avis rent-a-car.”

Batista of 133 St. James Ave., was arrested and charged with armed assault with intent to murder, carrying a loaded firearm without a license, possession of ammunition, discharging a firearm and resisting arrest.

The driver of the Charger, Manuel Melendez of 54 Byers St., was arrested and charged with failure to stop for police, having a suspended license, possession of marijuana with intent to distribute, possession of a Class E substance with intent to distribute, open container and larceny of a motor vehicle.

Both men were arraigned in Springfield District Court on July 29.