BRIDGEPORT -- Every day when Ronald Reed pulls on his gear as a city firefighter, he puts his life in danger.
Now the nine-year veteran believes the city has put not only his life in danger, but that of his 5-year-old daughter and members of his engine company.
Reed, a muscular 6-footer, said this is the result of being forced by the police and fire departments to try to identify the suspects in the July 20 carjacking of his 2003 Jaguar on Highland Avenue.
"I've had someone roll-up on me and accuse me of being a snitch," Reed said outside his Bridgeport apartment last week "I've been told there are people out to get me. I feel my life and my family's life has been placed in danger."
The chain of events began around 6:30 p.m. on July 20.
At that time, Reed said he stopped at Junco's on Highland Avenue, purchased a cigar and heard his name being called out.
As he attempted to approach that person, two others confronted him, one pointing what looked like a .380 caliber pistol.
"He told me to take everything off and out," Reed said. "I tried to fight them off. That's when they popped my diamond chain."
In harm's way
It's also when the gunman attempted to shoot him.
"The gun jammed, so I ran around the side of my car," Reed said.
He remembered being about 50 feet away when the man tried to shoot again, but the gun jammed again. The pair then jumped into the tan Jaguar and fled with Reed's $3,600 in firefighter gear inside.
Reed said he called police, then spent the evening looking for his car, which was found near the intersection of Cottage and Seeley streets. The passenger side view mirror was dangling and a long white scrape stretched the length of the car.
"Somebody told me they sideswiped a U-Haul," Reed said.
About 10 days later it got interesting, he said. That's when he and three members of his engine company were dispatched to the Greene Homes on Highland Avenue.
There police were waiting for him and asked him to take a look at some suspects.
"They totally put me and everyone around me in danger," said Reed, who is black. He is also the nephew of Joel Christy, the sometimes outspoken head of the Bridgeport Firebirds, which represents black firefighters.
"I told them the guy who robbed me had a hood covering his face; I couldn't positively identify him," Reed said. "So the cop told me the case was closed."
Reed later discovered that the carjacking was recorded on two surveillance cameras near the store.
Additionally, Reed said he has been charged $450 in towing and storage while his car was in police custody. He was even given a $3,600 bill for his missing firefighter equipment.
"It is the department's policy that firefighters are responsible for their personal gear when removed from the firehouse," said Deputy Fire Chief Robert Petrucelli. "In this case, the gear was located quickly, so any process of recouping the cost of the equipment had not yet begun."
Petrucelli said a citizen found the gear near Highland Avenue and had it returned to the department.
"Both the police and fire department totally mishandled this case," said Christy, Reed's uncle.
"I would hope they didn't do this intentionally, but nevertheless they did. Tell me why the police couldn't have sat him in a cruiser with tinted windows? Or brought him to the station and had him look at them through a two-way mirror instead of putting him, his family, and his fellow firefighters in danger.
"Now they know who he is, where he works and who he works with."
"This is all wrong," said Reed, who has filed a civilian complaint against Detective Chris Barona.
Police Chief Joseph L. Gaudett in a statement acknowledged that Reed has filed a civilian complaint with the Office of Internal Affairs, "and it will be thoroughly investigated, as it would regardless of whether he is a city employee.
"The initial crime was thoroughly investigated. Any concerns he has will be thoroughly investigated as well."
Thomas Bucci, a former city mayor who currently specializes in employee rights as a lawyer, and Scot X. Esdaile, statewide president of the NAACP, both questioned the way the city handled the investigation.
"This is very disturbing action on the part of the police," Bucci said. "It's also very dangerous and makes no sense. Someone has some explaining to do."
Bucci said he has consulted with Reed and is monitoring the city's response.
Meanwhile Ted Meekins, a retired black police officer who during his career has had numerous run-ins with his supervisors, many of which were found to be discriminatory, said he would have advised Reed to first meet with Gaudett before filing the Internal Affairs complaint.
"I would expect the chief would take his concerns seriously, investigate them and give him contact numbers to call if he felt at any time his life or his family's life was in danger," Meekins said.
Still, Esdaile said Reed's account of the city's response "sounds very reckless."
The NAACP statewide president said his organization will be investigating the matter.
He said Jack Bryant, the president of the Stamford branch, who also serves as second vice president of the state branch, will look into the matter. The Greater Bridgeport branch is being reorganized.
"We want to hear both sides. But its very important that we look into this," Esdaile said.
"No one should be treated like that."
©2014 the Connecticut Post (Bridgeport, Conn.)
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