Category Archives: Police

Remembering Chris Hoffmann

Chris Hoffmann — a 2004 Staples graduate, active member of the Air Force Reserves and a Watchung, New Jersey police officer — was killed on Saturday in a motorcycle accident in that state. He was cut off by an unlicensed driver, in an unregistered car. Chris was 5 days short of his 29th birthday.

His family and many friends are devastated. His sister, Alexis Green, says, “the world has stood still.”

Christopher Hoffmann: proud police officer, family member and all-around great guy.

The many faces of Christopher Hoffmann.

Before joining the Watchung force, Chris was a special officer in Seaside Heights, and an aircraft mechanic at McGuire Air Force Base.

“My brother was finally at the point in his life where he had achieved everything he wanted,” Alexis says. “He had his dream job, and was looking into buying land to build a home. He was an amazing uncle and godfather to my 2 children. My heart aches for my brother. I would do anything to have him back.”

Vanessa Woolard — who attended Staples with Chris, and worked with him for 5 years at Swanky Frank’s — calls him “beyond an amazing person. He had a heart of gold. On the worst days at work, Chris had the ability to brighten anyone’s mood.

“I have silly memories, like trying to fry anything we could get our hands on — avocado, ketchup…  But Chris would always stay late to help me clean, and never got mad if I messed up an order. His compassionate and genuine nature were something the world will not be the same without.”

“Chris was an all-around nice guy,” adds Staples graduate Stephanie Halka.

“He was the type of friend that’s hard to find. Chris and my brother had a crew of 8, and a bond that can never be broken.”

(A Facebook page in his memory is titled “Justice for Officer Chris Hoffmann.” To leave an online condolence note, click on ColonialFuneralGroup.com.) 

Uncle and godfather Christopher Hoffmann, with Edmund Lloyd Green IV.

Uncle and godfather Christopher Hoffmann, with Edmund Lloyd Green IV.

 

Michael Barrett’s “Shoshana”

Authors are always told: “Write what you know.”

So why does Michael Barrett‘s 1st novel involve neo-Nazis protecting a Treblinka guard, now resettled in the US; a beautiful Mossad agent, and a professor named Morris?

Because — in one way or another — they’re all part of Barrett’s very intriguing life.

Michael Barrett (right) and friend.

Michael Barrett (right) and friend.

After graduating from Fairfield University as an English major, he spent 23 years with the Westport Police Department. He served as a detective, worked on the auto theft task force, and was a sketch artist who helped colleagues around the state nab rape and homicide suspects.

Barrett retired in 2000. He now owns a security firm, and consults with businesses like Mitchells. He also paints portraits, and plays jazz sax and flute.

The ex-cop was a longtime friend of the late Fairfield philosophy professor Morris Grossman. Barrett has always been interested in the Holocaust, and — though he’s not Jewish — he learned a lot of Jewish history from Grossman.

Including Treblinka. The detective spent years researching that Nazi extermination camp.

ShoshanaHis debut novel is Shoshana. Its intricate plot includes — in addition to “Morris” and Treblinka — a cop named Artie. He’s an accomplished portrait painter, who becomes a police composite artist.

The book is set in “Westcove,” Connecticut. Clearly, Michael Barrett has written about what he knows.

The book jacket says, “Artie confronts issues of morality, revenge, and the meaning of Jewish suffering through the ages.”

Just another day in the life of an ex-Westport cop.

(For more information, or to order Shoshana, click here.)

Driver Does Nice Thing. Pass It On.

Alert “06880” reader Cary Peterson writes:

Not long ago a card was left on my windshield, apologizing for accidentally scuffing my rear bumper and leaving a phone number. I never called Charles, just dabbed a bit of dealer pen paint onto the blemish on my bumper to see it disappear.

Note

Last week I took a key I found on Imperial Avenue (which had a tag saying SRC food trailer on it…Saugatuck Rowing Club?) to police headquarters, and added it to a pile of keys they have sitting on the counter. Many people have returned keys to the police station. There were loads of expensive electronic car keys there. I guess people aren’t aware of it.

Anyway, despite bad parking jobs, I think Westport’s cup is more than half full, with many people cleaning up the streets and building castles in the sand.

Westport’s Oral Histories: A True Hidden Treasure

It’s easy to overlook the tab at the top of the Westport Historical Society website.

“Oral History,” it says. You probably figure it provides a bit of info about whatever oral histories the WHS has collected.

But clicking it reveals nearly a dozen videos — all on YouTube, all waiting to provide 10-minute-to-an-hour chunks of intriguing Westport history. (Another 300 oral histories are on audiotape only.)

On camera, Jo Fox Brosious remembers the (thankfully successful) 1960’s fight to save Cockenoe Island from becoming a nuclear power plant. Close-to-centenarians Lee Greenberg and Elwood Betts recall the Westport of even longer ago.

(Click here if Katie Chase’s interview with Elwood Betts does not load directly from YouTube.)

Former police chief Ron Malone and former fire chief Harry Audley share stories. Shirley Mellor sits in Max’s Art Supplies, describing the importance of the store to Westport’s artists’ colony.

Other oral histories explore our literary heritage, community garden, oystering and more.

Each year, the Historical Society runs a tour of Westport’s hidden gardens. Visitors to Wheeler House — the WHS’ historic home across from Town Hall — constantly revel in the surprises they find there.

These oral histories are one more treasure — hidden in plain sight, at the top of their site.

(Click here to go directly to the Westport Historical Society’s Oral History page. Videos are also available for puchase, at $10 each.)

(Click here if Allen Raymond’s interview of Ron Malone does not load directly from YouTube.)

 

While You And I Slept This Morning…

…Kelly Konstanty, Morgan Mermagen and Mike Grant were on the run.

The trio ran through Westport, in Stage 315 of the One Run for Boston. The charity event — for One Fund Boston, which supports victims of last year’s horrific Boston Marathon bombing — began March 16 in Los Angeles. It ends tomorrow in Massachusetts, a week before the Marathon.

So far, over $410,000 has been raised, by 1,990 runners.

Morgan Mermagen, Mike Grant and Kelly Konstanty, after finishing their Westport to Bridgeport run.

Morgan Mermagen, Mike Grant and Kelly Konstanty, after finishing their Westport to Bridgeport run.

The trio received the baton downtown, around 4:30 a.m., from a group that started in Darien. Kelly, Morgan and Mike ran to Bridgeport, arriving there around 6:05.

Kelly has run the Boston Marathon before, but can’t this year. This is her way of showing support for “Boston Strong.” 

Grant adds, “If you are trying to defeat the human spirit, marathoners are the wrong group to target. We run for those who can’t.”

The runners thanked the Westport Police for their escort, and their supporters who cheered them on.

Congratulations, Kelly, Morgan and Mike. You did more before dawn today than many of us will achieve all weekend!

What Would You Do?

Ask.fm is the latest post-anything website both beloved and hated by teenagers. Its anonymous question-and-answer format allows — if not encourages — abusive, bullying content. (The site was referenced in news reports of the suicide of a 12-year-old Florida girl.)

I know this because a Westport parent told me about Ask.fm, and described its use by middle school students here.

Ask fmThe bullying of the parent’s child (and a friend who stood up for the child) peaked this winter, with repeated references to school events. The child went to  administrators, who after an investigation said that one perpetrator had been identified. An official said the bully was remorseful, and an apology would be forthcoming.

It never came.

The parent and child were uneasy. Neither knew which classmate had been behind the bullying, or which of the parent’s adult friends were helping that child hide behind the legal right of anonymity for juveniles.

“You know who punches you in the face on the playground,” the parent says. “But today’s technology allows this to be the perfect crime.”

The parent considered going to the police. Anonymity would still be honored, but in the parent’s words, “the process would be the punishment.”

After all, the parent says, “this family hasn’t had the moxie to come forward. We don’t even know if they punished their child.”

Bullying 3

The parent does not know if going to the police is the right thing to do. Is it overkill? If so, is overkill worth getting some satisfaction of knowing something happened — even if the parents never learn what (or even who) was involved?

The parent wants to know what “06880” readers think. Should the parents of the bully have stepped up and apologized — or made their child do so? Should the police be involved? Are there other options?

Click “Comments” to weigh in. And — unlike Ask.fm — please use your real name.

“We Rob Banks”

In 1968 — a few months after the movie “Bonnie and Clyde” swept the nation — a few Staples seniors and friends thought it would be cool to imitate the legendary outlaws.

The high school campus was open; students came and went as they pleased during free periods (and sometimes during not-so-frees). It was spring; giddiness filled the air. Hey, why not?!

Five guys dressed up like ’20s gangsters. They drove downtown, sauntered into Westport Bank & Trust — now Patagonia — and, with a “getaway car” idling outside, pulled out a fake .38 pistol and said, “Stick ‘em up!”

Ha ha!

A few customers scrambled for cover. The tellers didn’t know what to think, but eventually realized it was just a prank. Cops were called, and hauled the Gang of 5 across the street to the police station.

The Westport Town Crier covered the “let’s pretend” robbery jovially. They described the teenagers’ suits and fedoras in detail.

Times sure have changed. Banks — not to mention the ATF, FBI and NSA — don’t look kindly on fake stick-ups.

If this stunt happened today, a full-scale investigation would be held. School administrators and the Board of Education can’t have kids dressed as bank robbers leaving school in the middle of the day, then pretending to rob a bank.

And the Westport Police would certainly not allow 5 teenagers, dressed in fedoras and holding cigarettes, to pose jauntily in the station lobby, looking like they’ve just pulled off the heist of the century.

The Town Crier photo of (from left) Thomas Skinner, Stephen Ambrose, Michael Simonds, Frank Rawlinson and Anthony Dohanos. Anthony posted the photo on Facebook. He now lives in Hawaiii -- far from the scene of the "crime."

The Town Crier photo of (from left) Thomas Skinner, Stephen Ambrose, Michael Simonds, Frank Rawlinson and Anthony Dohanos. Anthony posted the photo on Facebook. He now lives in Hawaiii — far from the scene of the “crime.”

 

 

 

Staples Students Dodge Cops; Everyone Happy

Cops and kids battled it out for a couple of hours last night at Staples.

They threw stuff at each other, across a line no one dared cross.

Then they all fist-bumped, had pizza, and drove home safely.

The event was “Dodge-a-Cop” — a massive dodgeball tournament — sponsored by the Westport Police/Youth Collaborative and Youth Commission.

Over a dozen high school teams participated, with at least one Westport Police officer on each team.

Students paid to participate. All funds raised go to Homes With Hope.

That’s a big 10-4.

Officer Ned Batlin, Deputy Chief Foti Koskinas and Captain Sam Arciola are all smiles -- before the dodgeballs start flying.

Officer Ned Batlin, Deputy Chief Foti Koskinas and Captain Sam Arciola are all smiles — before the dodgeballs start flying.

Staples track stars (from left) Patrick Lindwall, Will McDonald, James Lewis, Peter Elkind and Jake Berman are fast enough to run from the cops. At the dodgeball tournament, they didn't have to.

Staples track stars (from left) Patrick Lindwall, Will McDonald, James Lewis, Peter Elkind and Jake Berman are fast enough to run from the cops. At the dodgeball tournament, they didn’t have to.

Click here if your browser does not link directly to YouTube.

 

The “Art” Of Detective Rocke

Jak Kovatch is a noted painter, printmaker and sculptor. A longtime Westporter, in 2013 he earned the town’s “Lifetime Achievement Award for Art.”

Recently, several of his paintings, etchings and lithographs were stolen from his home.

The Westport Police Department quickly solved the case. With the help of New York City cops, they also found the works themselves — not long before they might have been shipped and lost.

Kovatch asked “06880” to thank the Westport police — particularly Detective John Rocke — publicly. “Their additional follow-through on this case for me was unexpected and very much appreciated,” he says.

The artist is thrilled. The art is now back home. And the art of crime-solving is being applied to a new case, by our fine Westport Police Department.

This diptych by Jak Kovatch was one of the items recovered by the Westport Police.

This diptych by Jak Kovatch was one of the items recovered by the Westport Police.

From The Top: Thanks To DPW, Other Town Employees

First Selectman Jim Marpe sent this email to “06880” yesterday:

Thanks, Dan, for all your coverage of the town’s snow-clearing efforts this winter. Thanks too for encouraging everyone to drive more cautiously, and clear away the snow around their fire hydrants.

The positive comments about the work that our Department of Public Works snowplow drivers have done this year are particularly appreciated. Under the leadership of Steve Edwards and Scott Sullivan, our plow drivers have worked very long hours, and slept on cots at the DPW offices on the Sherwood Island Connector when they’re on duty for more than a normal shift (which has been often this season).

Westport's DPW snow plow crew does yeoman's work -- all over town. (Photo/Luke Hammerman for Inklings)

Westport’s DPW snow plow crew does yeoman’s work — all over town. (Photo/Luke Hammerman for Inklings)

They are very dedicated to doing the best job possible to clear Westport’s 123 miles of public roads as quickly as practical during and after a snowstorm.  Our streets get high praise from folks who come to Westport from nearby towns after a snowfall.

I regret that there were some lost mailboxes and blocked driveways during last week’s snowfall, but I know it was the result of the plow crews making a sincere attempt to clear the roads in a timely fashion. The DPW crews deserve our praise and thanks (and yes, some coffee or hot chocolate).

While you’re at it, share some of those hot drinks with our police, fire and EMS personnel who can always be counted on to respond as rapidly as possible regardless of the weather or time of day (or night), and with our Town Hall and school custodians who have the buildings ready for the rest of us — even on a “snow day.”