A Hartford police officer has died after a driver who was fleeing the scene of a traffic stop struck a police cruiser late Wednesday night, according to Hartford police. Another officer suffered serious injuries in the crash.
The 18-year-old who has been arrested is a student in 11th grade and his bond has been set at $1 million.
Officer Robert “Bobby” Garten, 34, an eight-year veteran of the Hartford Police Department, died of his injuries, according to Hartford Police Chief Jason Thody and Mayor Luke Bronin. Garten was a second-generation Hartford police officer, police said during a news conference Thursday morning.
Gov. Ned Lamont is directing U.S. and state flags in Connecticut to be lowered to half-staff in honor of Officer Garten.
The officer who was injured in the crash, Officer Brian Kearney, is hospitalized and in stable condition. Police said he suffered serious injuries.
Police said Hartford police officers who were on patrol had stopped the driver of a Honda Accord with a canceled registration on Broad Street after the driver went through a red light, according to court documents. As the officers got out of the vehicle and approached the car, the driver sped off.
Police said the officers did not chase the car and the driver ran one red light at Farmington Avenue and another at Asylum Avenue, then hit a police vehicle that was responding to a separate incident in the area of Asylum Avenue near Cogswell Street around 10:20 p.m.
Garten was in the passenger seat of the police cruiser that was struck and died at St. Francis Hospital after doctors and nurses performed extensive life-saving efforts, police said.
“We are devastated at the loss of Bobby,” Chief Thody said in a statement. “He was an amazing person that exemplified what it means to be a Hartford Police Officer. His commitment to serve was above reproach. Our HPD family has come together to support Bobby’s family, honor his memory, and do what he would want us to do, protect and serve the Hartford community.”
“My heart and prayers and the love and prayers of our whole city are with Officer Garten’s parents, family, loved ones, friends and colleagues, and the entire HPD family,” Mayor Bronin said in a statement. “Bobby Garten loved this city, loved the Hartford Police Department, served our community with distinction, courage, skill and compassion, and this loss is immeasurable for all who loved, served with, and knew him. Officer Garten and his family have our everlasting respect and gratitude.”
Gov. Ned Lamont released a statement Thursday morning as well.
“The passing of Officer Garten is heartbreaking, and I express my deepest condolences to his family, friends, and colleagues in the Hartford Police Department. This tragedy is an unfortunate reminder of the dangers that law enforcement face every day as they protect our neighborhoods. Officer Garten dedicated his life and his career to public safety, and we salute his courage, integrity, and commitment to the people of our capital city. I urge the residents of Connecticut to keep Officer Garten’s family and the Hartford Police Department in their prayers,” Lamont said.
Garten, who is from Wethersfield and lived in Newington, served in the patrol division, as a walk-beat officer, and he was in the street crimes unit for the last two years. He’s also served on the police department’s marine unit.
Thody said he worked with Garten’s father, who was a police detective when he started in the department.
Bronin said Bobby Garten loved the city of Hartford and grew up going to Hartford Whalers games when the team was in Connecticut and more recently to Hartford Yard Goats games.
“He served this city with courage and compassion and tremendous skill and dedication,” Bronin said.
The mayor said Garten’s mom said Wednesday that every day that her son was on shift she told him to be safe out there and he would respond, “I always am.”
“And he was yesterday, too. He was doing exactly what he should do to serve this city,” Bronin said. “And that’s a reminder that every one of our officers, no matter how safe they are, put themselves in the line of danger every day and we are so grateful to them for what they do for this community.”
A portion of Asylum Avenue was blocked off for several hours as police conducted their investigation.
Hartford police say a suspect, Richard Barrington, 18 of Hartford, is in custody.
Barrington, an 11th-grade student, suffered minor injuries and has been released from Hartford Hospital. He is being charged with several violations, including interfering with police, failure to obey traffic control signals and misuse of plates, police said.
He is due in court on Sept. 28.
Several police officers held vigil outside St. Francis Hospital Thursday morning. Just after 4:30 a.m., the officers led a procession from the hospital to escort the fallen officer’s body to the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Farmington.
Just before 3 p.m. Thursday, a police motorcade escorted Officer Garten from the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner to a funeral home in Wethersfield.
Hartford police said state police are leading the investigation and there is video evidence of what happened.