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Conn. officer shot in ambush, suspect in custody

State police said Andrew Samuolis, 34, ambushed and shot the officer, who was responding for a "well being" check

By David Owens and Hilda Munoz
The Hartford Courant

WILLIMANTIC — A massive manhunt for the man suspected of shooting a Willimantic police officer on Tunxis Lane late Tuesday morning ended with the suspect in custody and the discovery of a body in his house.

State police said Andrew Samuolis, 34, ambushed and shot the officer, who was responding for a "well being" check at 31 Tunxis Lane about 11:15 a.m.

Police later searched the house and discovered the body of a man, in what "appeared to be a homicide scene," state police Lt. J. Paul Vance said. The victim was not identified as of Tuesday night. Neighbors said a father and a son lived at the house.

When the officer entered the house, he was shot in the arm. Police Chief Lisa Maruzo-Bolduc said the officer was in stable condition at Windham Hospital.

A neighbor who did not want to be named said he saw a police officer get into the home through a front window "and all hell broke loose."

Fifteen state police canine teams were practicing nearby and responded to the call, along with off-duty Willimantic officers and officers from neighboring towns.

A little more than half a mile through the woods from Tunxis Lane, residents reported seeing a man running through backyards. At one point, he exchanged gunfire with police, Vance said.

The chase ended about 12:50 p.m. when a state police canine team caught Samuolis near the IGA grocery store on Route 32 in Willimantic, Vance said.

When troopers found Samuolis, he had a handgun, and officers also recovered a rifle at 31 Tunxis Lane, Vance said.

Samuolis had dog bites and other injuries and was treated at Windham Hospital, Vance said. He has been charged with breach of peace and interfering with police, but more charges are likely to be filed as the investigation continues, Vance said. Bail was set at $1 million.

A Tunxis Lane neighbor said he called police Tuesday because he noticed a mass of flies on the windows of 31 Tunxis Lane.
"It didn't look right to me," the neighbor said.

Fred Masse was working at a house on Oxbow Drive, near Tunxis Lane, shortly after 11 a.m. when he heard what he thought were fireworks. He said he went outside and saw a police officer with a bloody arm. The officer got into a police car, which drove him to an ambulance nearby, Masse said.

Another resident of Tunxis Lane, Ivan Maldonado, said three people lived at the home where the shooting happened -- a mother, a father and one son. Maldonado said the mother died about two years ago. He said he used to see the father driving around in the mornings, but hasn't seen him in a couple weeks. The son was very reclusive, Maldonado said.

"I was cutting my grass and I heard pop, pop, pop," Maldonado said. "As soon as the pops went off, five minutes later this place was loaded with cops."

About 30 minutes later, police arrived and told him to leave the area because the suspect had fled, Maldonado said.

Ashley Corey of Windham Road said she was watching television about 12:45 p.m. when she heard gunshots. She said she went outside to investigate and saw a helicopter and several state troopers.

The search focused on an area near Route 32 southeast of the center of Willimantic. The state police helicopter was also dispatched, along with emergency service units. Major crime squad detectives are investigating both crime scenes: the suspect's house and the area where police said he exchanged gunfire with them during the chase.

Matthew Vertefeuille, a spokesman for the town of Windham — which includes Willimantic — said he could not remember another case of an a police officer being shot in the town.

"It's a safe city," he said. "We don't have that kind of crime here."

Copyright 2013 The Hartford Courant

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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