Police: 'Barricaded suspect' dead following daylong standoff in Branford

BRANFORD — A person involved in a standoff that lasted most of the day and involved multiple instances of gunfire was found dead, according to police.

In a Facebook post around 7:15 p.m., Branford police said “The barricaded suspect has been founded deceased within the building.”

They added that Main Street near Cherry Hill would remain closed until further notice.

Residents also were being allowed back to their homes after some were evacuated earlier in the day.

Police Chief Jonathan Mulhern said he did not yet know whether the shooter, who was not yet being identified, was shot during one of at least two volleys of gunfire between him and police or whether he died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

When officers arrived, “I’ll tell you, they met some heavy gunfire,” Mulhern said.

There was an initial report of shots fired at 12:03 p.m., beginning at Pepe’s Service Station at 177 Main St. The shooter later was holed-up for several hours in a second-floor apartment of a house at 241 Main St., above the Leon James International Hair Studio, and at one point, “there was a second volley of gunfire,” Mulhern said.

During it, “there was return fire from responding officers.”

The shooter later “was found deceased inside the building there,” he said.

Investigators from the Branford Police Department were working with the Connecticut State Police Major Crime Squad and the New Haven State’s Attorney’s Office. The Major Crime Squad was expected to spend much of the night processing evidence from “multiple crime scenes,” Mulhern said.

He said it’s unlikely that the shooter’s identity will be released before the state Office of the Chief Medical Examiner determines his cause of death.

Other agencies on the scene Tuesday included the Branford Fire Department, the New Haven Police Department Bomb Squad, and officers from the New Haven, Madison, Guilford and East Haven police departments, Mulhern said.

“We want to thank all our area partners,” Mulhern said. The Branford Fire Department “provided crucial assistance,” he said.

The public had been asked to avoid Main Street in Branford because of an “active threat” that began Tuesday afternoon, according to police.

Police said they received a reports of shots fired in the area of Main Street and Cherry Hill Road just after noon. “Responding officers encountered heavy gunfire coming from the upper floors of a business/apartment building,” police said.

“Additional 911 calls reported a gunshot victim nearby,” the department posted on social media. “This victim was later transported to the hospital with reported non-life threatening injuries.”

Trista Milici, executive assistant to First Selectman Jamie Cosgrove, also said one person had been wounded and transported from the scene by the Branford Fire Department. She also said the individual’s injuries were believed to be non-life-threatening.

John Chambers, who owns Shelley’s Garden Center 217 Main St., said he got caught in the middle of the incident shortly after he heard shots around noon.

Chambers heard gunfire and came out of the store into the driveway, across from the building next door, where he said the shots were being fired from a second-floor window.

Chambers was sheltering in an apartment above the garden center when he spoke, as was a customer.

“I went out to see where all those shots were coming from. It was so loud, it was like, that’s really close,” Chambers said.

“I knew it was some kind of gunfire,” Chambers said. “I was in the middle of our driveway — that’s where I saw him. I eyeballed him.”

Chambers said he said he saw shots fired in the driveway and “just walked out into the driveway” and saw a window shot out on the side of a house and gunfire aimed at other places.

“I had all kinds of stuff in my driveway to hide behind,” he said.

Chambers said he saw the person who was injured by the gunfire about 300 feet from him. He said that as soon as he got out of the shooter’s sight-line, he ran back to the store.

Chambers said he believes he heard as many as 50 shots since noon.

At about 5 p.m. Branford police said the incident was still active and asked the public to avoid the area and not livestream video for the safety of officers.

Cyndi Puccio, a West Haven resident, and another woman were parked outside the Branford Townhouse Restaurant on North Main Street, watching the response.

Doug Shaw, a Branford resident, said he and his daughter, Brianna, had come over to see what was happening. Brianna’s friend lives in the area and had reported SWAT members were in their home.

“Things like this don’t happen in our small town of Branford,” said Shaw. “I’m worried about the police and any of the neighbors. I just hope everybody’s all right.”

Puccio, speaking around 2:15 p.m., said they had been there for about two hours. They had come to get something to eat; the restaurant was closed while they were there.

She said she had never seen a scene like this, considering the number of responding agencies and vehicles.

“It’s sad that somebody would do this,” said Puccio.

Shane Miller, a Guilford resident, was standing with a group of people near the intersection of Russell Street and Main Street, where police blocked the road, soon before 3 p.m.

Miller said he had been on his way to work when he heard about what happened. It was symptomatic of the pandemic, he said.

“It’s just COVID-19,” Miller said. “People are boiling up inside.”

Luciana Camarda, owner of Lucy’s Tailor on Main Street, said she had heard five shots around noon and then, by the time she went inside, heard another five. She said she had never dealt with anything like this before, describing the situation as “very scary.”

“I’m very shocked,” said Camarda. “It’s a very disturbing situation.”

Her daughter, Michelle Maturo, also was in the shop when shots were fired. She said she looked out the window and saw officers come up the street.

“It’s said that this is what it’s come to,” said Maturo.

Shoreline Times Editor Sue Braden Hull contributed to this story.

william.lambert@ hearstmediact.com