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New Haven Police respond to criticism for how they engaged a shoplifting suspect

Police said the suspect became belligerent when asked for his receipt. He then ran away from the officer when he was asked for his name.

NEW HAVEN, Conn. — In light of the unrest in Minneapolis and elsewhere across the country, in response to the police killing of a handcuffed man, New Haven Police were quick to respond to social media criticism following an officer-involved incident of their own. 

The viral video, which FOX61 does not have clearance to share, shows a white New Haven police officer tackling a black man, inside of the Walmart, on Rt. 80, after a brief verbal exchange. That drew the ire of many on social media, who were critical of the police. But, what the edited video does not show is what lead to the police arresting the man Wednesday night.

According to the New Haven Police report, the first officer on scene and the store's Asset Protection Manager approached Smith as he attempted to leave with a cart filled with a grill, two air conditioners, and a grill cover. 

The manager had asked Smith for his receipt and he could not show her one. Smith then made claims that he used an app to buy the items. When the manager went to help him verify his purchase, Smith was said to have begun exiting windows on his phone. He then claimed the wifi in the building was down and he could not show the purchase order on his phone. 

Smith then claimed he had problems with an employee discount and said he was an employee at the North Haven Walmart. 

Police said while the Asset Protection Manager continued to try and verify Smith made the purchase, he became more belligerent. The manager asked Smith for his name to check employee records, but Smith snapped at her asking if she was listening to him. It was then the officer asked Smith to walk away from the area due to the officer's belief that Smith was becoming a threat to people nearby. Smith then told the manager and officer, " "I`m trying to purchase my stuff." The officer told Smith he is no longer buying the items and to step out of line. 

The officer said based on Smith's erratic behavior, he believed Smith was going to start a fight and wanted him away from the other people. The officer took out his mace. 

Smith was then reported to have started yelling at the officer and the manager that he was going to buy his stuff. At one point he began yelling into the officer's face allegedly saying, "what? I have to listen to you because you`re a cop?! What are you going to do, kill me?" 

RELATED: Hamden police: Shoplifting suspect charged with assault after he coughed on officer during arrest and said he had COVID-19

RELATED: Hartford Market hit with a slew of shoplifters four months after opening

At another point, Smith began to yell coronavirus at the officer who was within six feet of him and to get out of his face. Smith was not wearing a mask inside the store. 

Another officer arrived on the scene and Smith's cart was taken away from him. Backup was also called to Walmart. Smith began to move away from the register. The first officer on the scene tried to identify Smith and gave him several commands, which Smith ignored as he walked away. The officer told Smith he had to identify him due to him causing a disturbance in the Walmart. Smith then tried to walk past the officer and the officer grabbed his arm. 

Smith then tried to run from the officer and the office used his mace. Smith tried to run out the door and was grabbed by the officer at the store's second exit. Police said Smith continued to resist them and told him to stop. 


The following are the charges Smith faces:

  • Assault on a police officer.
  •  Interfering with a police officer
  •  Larceny fifth degree.
  • Possession of a controlled substance (three counts).
  • Possession of a controlled substance with intent to sell

The police report said one of the officers possibly injured their knee during the struggled to take Smith into custody. 

New Haven Police released their body camera surveillance of the entire incident across their pages. (Warning: Graphic Content and Language) 

Body-Worn Camera Footage of New Haven Police Arrest at Walmart, 315 Foxon Boulevard

NHPD Provides Update About Store Arrest New Haven| On Wednesday, May 27, 2020, New Haven Police arrested Richard E. Smith, Jr. The arrest stems from a shoplifting investigation at a Walmart retail store located at 315 Foxon Boulevard (Route 80). The 29 year old New Haven man is charged with the following: °Assault on a police officer. °Interfering with a police officer.  °Larceny fifth degree.  °Possession of a controlled substance (three counts).  °Possession of a controlled substance with intent to sell. In response to a social media video which depicts a portion of the encounter, New Haven Police Chief Otoniel Reyes is offering an update on the arrest and making available the arresting officer’s body worn camera (BWC) footage. Chief Reyes said, “The officers’ actions were appropriate under the circumstances and the use of force was appropriate under the circumstances. The arresting officer’s body camera footage clearly shows the officer attempting to detain an individual, later identified as Richard E. Smith, Jr., who is suspected of trying to walk out the store without paying for a shopping cart of merchandise. The officer is injured as he and responding officers attempt to detain the man.” Chief Reyes added, “During the incident, the man falsely identified himself as a Walmart employee when he is not and he claimed to have tried to make a purchase when he had not. Additionally, officers found the man in possession of a quantity of illegal drugs.” “The officers did an excellent job and used the amount of force necessary to overcome the resistance of the man who refused to be arrested,” Chief Reyes said.

Posted by New Haven Police Department on Thursday, May 28, 2020


New Haven Police Chief Otoniel Reyes released a statement on the arrest: 

“The officers’ actions were appropriate under the circumstances and the use of force was appropriate under the circumstances. The arresting officer’s body camera footage clearly shows the officer attempting to detain an individual, later identified as Richard E. Smith, Jr., who is suspected of trying to walk out the store without paying for a shopping cart of merchandise. The officer is injured as he and responding officers attempt to detain the man.” Chief Reyes added, “During the incident, the man falsely identified himself as a Walmart employee when he is not and he claimed to have tried to make a purchase when he had not. Additionally, officers found the man in possession of a quantity of illegal drugs.” “The officers did an excellent job and used the amount of force necessary to overcome the resistance of the man who refused to be arrested,”