A police officer was killed and another seriously injured Wednesday night when their patrol vehicle was hit by a car speeding through a red light while fleeing a traffic stop in the Connecticut capital, authorities said. The driver of the car was arrested.
Officer Robert “Bobby” Garten, 34, an eight-year Hartford police veteran whose father retired as a police detective, died of his injuries, police said. Officer Brian Kearney was seriously injured and was listed as stable at a local hospital. Further details on his condition were not disclosed.
“This is a devastating loss for our community, for our department and our entire city is in mourning this morning,” Mayor Luke Bronin said at a press conference Thursday. “Bobby loved this city. … He served this city with courage and compassion, and extraordinary talent and dedication.”
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Police Chief Jason Thody said Garten was in the passenger seat and Kearney was driving the vehicle with his emergency lights and siren on as they responded to an unrelated call around 10:30 p.m. Wednesday. Another car that had fled a traffic stop by other officers slammed into the passenger side of the car just west of downtown Hartford.
The driver of the car, Richard Barrington, 18, of Hartford, was treated at a hospital, released and arrested, police said. He was charged with failing to obey a traffic light, failing to renew registration, misusing license plates and obstructing police activities. It was not immediately clear if he had a lawyer able to respond to the allegations.
Other officers had stopped Barrington after he disobeyed a traffic light and they had checked his license plate, which showed the car’s registration had been cancelled, Thody said. As officers approached the car, Barrington drove away, drove through a red light and drove through another red light before crashing into Garten and Kearney’s car, he said.
Other officers did not pursue Barrington when he fled the traffic stop, the police chief said.
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Early Thursday morning, a motorcade of police carried Garten’s body from the hospital to the chief medical examiner’s office in Farmington. Governor Ned Lamont then ordered that all state and United States flags in Connecticut be flown at half-mast in Garten’s memory.
Garten grew up in nearby Wethersfield and enjoyed going to the now-defunct Hartford Whalers NHL hockey games as a child and the Hartford Yard Goats minor league baseball games as a adult, Bronin and Thody said.
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Garten worked patrolling city streets before joining the department’s street crimes unit two years ago, Thody said. The unit focuses on gun violence and getting guns off the streets, Thody said.
“I think if you ask anybody in the police about him, they’ll tell you he was the guy who always smiled,” Thody said. “He absolutely loved his job when he took over. He was one of those officers who really wanted to excel and do different things. … He was a great man.”
Thody said state police are investigating the crash.
Funeral arrangements were not immediately announced.