By Chris Maza
LONGMEADOW – Exhaustive work by the Longmeadow Police Department and neighboring law enforcement agencies as well as smart usage of social media and eagle-eyed residents led to the arrest of a suspect after a nearly 15-hour search on June 27.
After he desperately attempted to evade officers in pursuit, Longmeadow police were able to catch a Florida resident by the name of Ryan Duncans, who was ultimately connected to a car break-in that occurred in town the day before as well as a similar crime in Enfield, Connecticut.
“I really can’t commend our officers enough for the hours of hard work they displayed. This search really showed how law enforcement will work together when called upon,” said Longmeadow Police Lt. Robert Stocks, who credited the police departments of Enfield and Springfield as well as the Massachusetts State Police Air Unit and Longmeadow Fire Department for their support in the pursuit.
Stocks also said the department regularly posted updates on the situation on its Facebook page, a move to inform residents for their safety and also create a network of extra eyes for police and it worked.
“We received numerous calls based on the information that we provided, including a very good description of Duncans, that proved to be extremely beneficial,” Stocks said. “As soon as Duncans came out of hiding, residents let us know.”
The case commenced on June 26 when police received a report of a car break-in on Dwight Road during which the vehicle’s window was smashed. Surveillance video that captured the incident revealed the suspect, now known to be Duncans, was driving a newer model Dodge Durango with a New York license plate.
According to Stocks, on the morning of June 27, a Longmeadow police detective happened to look out the window of the police station on Williams Street to see a Dodge Durango with New York plates drive by.
A request for officers in the area to surveil the vehicle resulted in a pair of officers following the SUV. Upon observing the officers, Duncans allegedly pulled into a driveway on Williams Street, almost struck the cruisers while backing out, and took off toward Route 5. Police followed Duncans heading north at a high speed on Route 5 but suspended their pursuit in the interest of public safety. Duncans later struck a vehicle on Route 5 and fled on food on Englewood Road.
Officers set up a perimeter and began their search with the aid of a Massachusetts state police helicopter and K-9 units from Longmeadow, Enfield and Springfield. Unable to locate Duncans after an hour-long search, police “dialed back” their efforts Stocks said, maintaining an increased presence in the area and providing information to the public via Facebook.
Thanks to the social media posts, police were notified of sightings of Duncans in the area of Warren Terrace and Edgewood Road, but again were unable to capture him due to the ravines and thickly wooded areas in which he was able to conceal himself.
At that time, the department informed St. Mary’s, which hosts a day camp, and Bay Path University that Duncans was in the area, prompting a precautionary lockdown.
“While we had no evidence that Duncans was armed or dangerous, we are dealing with a suspect who was clearly desperate and attempting to evade police,” Stocks said. “In these cases, we would rather err on the side of caution. We don’t want a situation evolving into something worse.”
Hours later, Duncans was spotted on Route 5 and was found by officers at the Pride gas station near the Connecticut state line.
While he initially denied his involvement in the car break, he did not resist. Police found evidence of the larceny and evidence of another break-in in Enfield as well as several wigs.
“We have reason to believe that he is part of a group that travels up and down the East Coast breaking into cars and taking credit cards and other items that will give them fraudulent access to bank accounts,” Stocks said.
Within minutes of the reports of Duncan’s final sightings before his arrest, Longmeadow police also received information that led to another chase.
Police received a BOLO (be on the lookout) notice from the Enfield Police Department that a suspect was traveling north on I-91 toward Longmeadow in excess of 100 miles per hour and evading Connecticut authorities.
A Longmeadow officer spotted the vehicle on Route 5 and attempted to stop the vehicle, which rammed his cruiser and fled back onto I-91.
Pursuing officers pursued the vehicle, which was eventually stopped off of Exit 2 of I-291 in Springfield. Gian C. Gonzalez, 25, of 345 Myrtle St., New Britain, CT, was arrested and charged with a motor vehicle lights violation, speeding in violation with special regulation, failure to stop for police, a marked lanes violation, reckless operation of a motor vehicle, assault and battery with a dangerous weekend, operation of an unregistered motor vehicle, operation of an unregistered motor vehicle, number plate violation to conceal identification, possession of a Class B substance, possession of ammunition without an FID card and leaving the scene of property damage.
Police also made another arrest last week on June 26, apprehending a breaking and entering suspect.
According to Stocks, Angel Martinez allegedly broke into a home on Longmeadow Street through a rear sliding door and made his way from room to room taking items. When he arrived at the final bedroom, he awoke the sleeping homeowner and attempted to flee. The homeowner immediately picked up a phone to call the authorities a which time Martinez allegedly grabbed a screwdriver and threatened the homeowner.
Two nearby officers responded immediately and found Martinez nearby and arrested him without incident.
Shortly after Martinez was brought to the police station, a resident reported their vehicle was broken into on Pondside Road and police found Martinez to be in possession of missing items from that vehicle.
“We have reason to believe he was coming from Springfield, walked the woodline near Pondside Road and broke into the unattended vehicle before making his way to Longmeadow Street,” Stocks said.
Martinez’s last known address was in Worcester, but Stocks said he indicated to officers that he was homeless.