GROTON — Groton Police have named a suspect in the homicide of a man outside of a Groton pub early Sunday morning, and they say the suspect is believed to be "armed and dangerous."
Police have issued an arrest warrant for Dante Hughes, 30, of Groton, in the murder of Joseph Gingerella, 24, of Groton.
According to police and patrons of Ryan's Pub, who witnessed the incident, Hughes was beating his girlfriend in the restaurant's parking around 1:30 a.m. Sunday when Gingerella and others ran to her rescue.
While Gingerella tried to help the woman, please say Hughes shot him multiple times, and ultimately killed him.
"Our investigation has shown that, has demonstrated that he was actually trying to intervene on somebody's behalf and help them," Groton Town Police Chief Louis Fusaro Jr. said.
Hughes is described by police as a black man, 5-foot-11 tall, weighing 150 pounds, with black hair and brown eyes. Detectives are on the lookout for Hughes, who they said should be considered armed and dangerous. Anybody who sees Hughes should not confront him, but call 911 immediately.
"We deal with tragedies all the time in this line of work. But, when the deputy chief called to tell me who it was, my heart sank," Chief Fusaro said.
That heartbreak is because Fusaro knows Gingerella and his family well. Gingerella has battled an opioid addiction for years, which led him, his mother Tammy and his stepfather to start Community Speaks Out, a local nonprofit that advocates on behalf of families struggling with addiction.
Gingerella was very vocal about his addiction, hoping his story would help others.
"If it wasn't for Joey, we wouldn't be here right now. He was the brave one to stand out and speak about his experiences," explained Lisa Cote Johns, who co-founded Community Speaks Out with the Gingerellas after her son, Chris, died of an overdose.
Gingerella’s stepfather, Joe De La Cruz, was elected to the state House of Representatives in November.
The family issued a statement about his death on Sunday:
A light has left our lives. Joey Gingerella brought a surplus of light and love into the world. His infectious joy would fill whatever room he was in. We will miss him terribly. Joey was dedicated to helping people. He used his life experiences to aid anyone in the community who needed a helping hand. We are incredibly moved by the outpouring of support from the community. Thank you all for your kind words about Joey.
FOX 61 talked to Gingerella’s mother earlier this year, and she discussed her son’s opioid addiction.
"This is a huge fight. If it can happen to my kid, who I thought might be able to go play professional somewhere, baseball, he was a great pitcher -- I just couldn't wrap my head. 'How is this my kid? He has a good home. I do everything right.' It doesn't discriminate," Tammy de la Cruz said of addiction on February 4. Gingerella played baseball in high school, and was a star of Fitch High School's team.
On Monday morning, Congressman Joe Courtney released the following statement on the passing of Joseph Gingerella of Groton:
The senseless slaying of Joey Gingerella is a terrible loss for his family and the Groton community. His courageous public battle with addiction -- which he was winning -- was both an example and inspiration to us all. My deepest condolences go out to his family.
Anyone with any information on the incident is asked to contact the Groton Police Department at (860) 441 – 6712.