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Connecticut Police Use Cell Data to Tie Officer to Burglaries

Investigators probing a string of late-night burglaries identified a former Connecticut police officer as the culprit after obtaining cell data linking his wife's Jeep to the crime, according to a warrant.

(TNS) — Investigators probing a string of late-night burglaries identified a former Connecticut police officer as the culprit after obtaining cellular data linking his wife's Jeep to the crime, according to a warrant for his arrest.

Patrick Hemingway, a former Glastonbury and New Britain police officer, was charged this week with burglaries at businesses in Wethersfield and Old Saybrook. Police have said he is suspected of committing dozens of burglaries across Connecticut and in two other states.

Hemingway, 37, was arrested Wednesday on a Wethersfield warrant charging him with third-degree burglary, sixth-degree larceny and third-degree criminal mischief in connection with the Feb. 10 break-in at the Old Wethersfield Country Store on Main Street.

Old Saybrook police also charged Hemingway on Wednesday with third-degree burglary in the May 8 break-in attempt at Pizza Place on Boston Post Road. Police have said he entered the restaurant through an unlocked window, but left when he tripped an alarm. His DNA was later found at the scene.

According to a warrant in the Wetherfield case, police were called to the country store in the town's historic district in the late morning of Feb. 10 after an employee noticed that the cash register's drawer was missing. The owner told officers they believed the drawer, which contained $200 in cash, had been stolen since it appeared to have been forcefully removed from the register, leaving exposed wires.

Surveillance footage later confirmed a burglary had taken place, the warrant states. Around 1:30 a.m., cameras inside the store captured a person in a puffy winter jacket ripping out the drawer and leaving the building. The cameras, however, did not capture the individual's face.

Exterior cameras from a nearby business recorded a black Jeep Grand Cherokee parking near the north side of the country store around 1:20 a.m. The warrant states that a male figure consistent with the one seen on surveillance footage inside the building was captured exiting the vehicle before immediately returning and driving away.

Through intelligence-sharing with other law enforcement agencies, investigators in Wethersfield learned that an individual seen wearing similar clothing and driving a similar vehicle was suspected of being involved in dozens of commercial burglaries in Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island, according to the warrant. The evidence indicated the suspect had evolved their methods and was stealing and affixing the license plates of similar vehicles to the Jeep to evade investigators.

The investigators working on the Wethersfield case, led by Detective Robert Malinowski, obtained a search warrant for cellular activity in the area of the store from the night of the burglary. The warrant states that Malinowski was hoping to learn if the vehicle seen in the surveillance footage may have connected to a cell tower using an integrated SIM card common in newer Grand Cherokees.

The results showed that more than 200 devices connected to a nearby cell tower during the time period. But by comparing similar cellular data from a different suspected break-in that took place in Shelton, police were able to identify a common phone number.

The number was assigned to a 2019 Grand Cherokee registered to Hemingway's wife. The cellular data also linked the same vehicle to several other burglaries in which police suspect Hemingway.

When police seized the Jeep in Glastonbury, Patrick Hemingway wasn't home, but his wife was. She told detectives that the vehicle had never been reported stolen or at a repair shop for an extended period, but could not offer an explanation about why it was in the area of multiple commercial burglaries.

Hemingway already is being held in lieu of $1 million bail on computer crime and false statement charges. Investigators said he was using the Glastonbury Police Department law enforcement database to see if police suspected him of the burglaries.

The Wethersfield Police Department was the second agency to charge Hemingway with burglary. Like Old Saybrook, Wethersfield served a warrant on Hemingway when he was in lockup at the Hartford courthouse, according to Wethersfield Police Chief Rafael Medina.

Hemingway was making $98,000 a year as a Glastonbury police officer at the time, according to personnel records obtained by Hearst Connecticut Media Group.

A member of the National Guard who saw combat in Afghanistan, Hemingway started working for the Glastonbury Police Department in January 2019 and earned good reviews. His last day with the department was Sept. 1.

He worked as a police officer for the New Britain Police Department from 2009 to 2019 and left on good terms, his personnel records show.

Western District Crime detectives from Connecticut State Police said in a warrant on the computer charges that Hemingway was suspected of burglarizing "30 or more" — including at least one in Glastonbury, the town in which he lived and patrolled.

According to that warrant, investigators found "commonalities" at similar burglary scenes: The burglar was tall, like Hemingway, who is 6-feet, 2-inches tall, and used what looked like police equipment, including a portable police radio.

On Sept. 22, Hemingway was arrested as a fugitive from justice at Trenton-Mercer Airport in New Jersey, where his flight school is located. He was extradited the following week, and processed in Connecticut.

Hemingway was arraigned on charges of first-degree computer crime, a Class B felony, and false statement, a Class A misdemeanor, on Sept. 29 in state Superior Court in Manchester, where Judge Sheila M. Prats said more arrests were expected in the case. She set Hemingway's bail at $1 million, noting that he has his pilot's license and could flee.

On Friday, James E. Sulick, Hemingway's attorney, urged prosecutors to push Connecticut State Police to charge his clients with the other crimes they suspect him of committing, saying he was frustrated they had not served additional warrants.

In response to the unusual request, state police saidc, as of Friday afternoon, there were no more warrants to serve. Sgt. Christine Jeltema described the investigation as ongoing and noted police have no timeline for completing the probe.

© 2023 The Hour (Norwalk, Conn.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.