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Just Hours after Launch, West Hartford Auto Theft Task Force Makes Multiple Arrests, Seizes Gun and Drugs [Updated]

West Hartford Police Department Interceptor SUV. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

[Updated, Jan. 16] The West Hartford Police Department’s Auto Theft Task Force launched on Tuesday night, and within hours helped arrest four people and recover a stolen car.

By Ronni Newton

West Hartford Police Chief Vernon Riddick announced at Tuesday night’s Town Council meeting that the department’s  newly-established Auto Theft Task Force (ATTF) would be deploying at 9:30 p.m. that night, and within hours its activities included assisting in multiple arrests, seizure of a gun and drugs, and recovery of a stolen car.

The seven-member ATTF includes detectives as well as officers from the Traffic Division.

Riddick said that on the night it launched, ATTF assisted the Community Service Unit (CSU) in the arrest of a known juvenile car burglar, assisted patrol officers in the recovery of a stolen vehicle and the arrest of its three occupants, and seized a firearm, Taser, drugs, and cash.

At 12:16 a.m. Wednesday, police said, ATTF members spotted a juvenile, known to police as a car burglar, in the area of Park Road and Prospect Avenue.

After observing the teen peer into vehicles on Prospect, the suspect walked into a dark alley and was stopped by officers. Police said the juvenile was in found to be in possession of credit cards that were not in the juvenile’s name, alcohol, and a stolen bottle of prescription pills. Police said the credit cards were later reported as associated with a burglary on Arnoldale Road.

According to police, the juvenile is also a suspect in another burglary, and was dressed in clothing identical to what was described in that previous incident.

Police arrested the juvenile on charges of third-degree burglary, sixth-degree larceny, possession of alcohol by a minor, and possession of a controlled substance.

The juvenile was taken into custody and later released to a representative of the Department of Children and Families (DCF), Riddick said.

The second incident in which the ATTF participated was just about an hour later.

At 1:20 a.m., Riddick said officers spotted a stolen vehicle traveling westbound on Albany Avenue.

ATTF deployed a tire deflating device, which caused the vehicle to stop on Ritoli Ridge, on Avon Mountain on the West Hartford/Avon border.

Police said multiple officers from ATTF, CSU, and the Patrol Division converged on the area.

Police said two of the three occupants attempted to flee on foot but were apprehended, and all three were arrested.

Police said they seized a .25 caliber firearm, a Taser, drugs, and cash. They also recovered the vehicle, a 2019 Kia Forte originally stolen from East Hartford. There was some damage to the vehicle, police said.

Joshua Johnson, 31, of East Hartford, was charged with carrying a pistol without a permit, criminal possession of a firearm, weapons in a motor vehicle, interfering with an officer, possession of narcotics, and second-degree larceny. Police said Johnson also had two outstanding warrants for probation violations related to possession of a weapon and third-degree assault.

Johnson was held on $250,000 bond.

Alexis Colon, 25, of Hartford, was charged with weapons in a motor vehicle, possession of a dangerous weapon, and second-degree larceny. He was held on $250,000 bond.

Osneil Gonzalez, 35, of Hartford, was charged with interfering with an officer and second-degree larceny. He was held on $50,000 bond.

The injuries to Gonzalez’s face shown below were sustained when the vehicle crashed, police said.

From left: Joshua Johnson, Osneil Gonzalez, Alexis Colon. Photos courtesy of West Hartford Police

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