Man shot at by East Haven police on I-95 in Milford will face more charges, officials say

NEW HAVEN — A man shot at by East Haven police following a foot chase across Interstate 95 in Milford this month will face additional criminal charges, officials confirmed Thursday.

Nicholas Gambardella, 27, has already been charged with three counts of first-degree failure to appear and one count of second-degree failure to appear after he was arrested during the Jan. 5 incident.

The New Haven state's attorney's office said Thursday it would be handling a majority of the charges against Gambardella. The incident began when police said Gambardella crashed into several of their cars while fleeing from them in Branford and ended shortly after he crashed off an I-95 exit ramp in Milford.

Police had information that Gambardella was armed with a gun, but no weapon was found after he was taken into custody, according to the Office of the Inspector General, which investigates police use-of-force incidents.

East Haven Police Lt. Joseph Finoia fired three shots at Gambardella in a grassy area just off the highway after he "appeared to reach and turn toward the officers," the inspector general said. None of the shots hit Gambardella.

Prosecutors have not yet said what additional charges Gambardella will face. The 27-year-old was released on bonds totaling $151,500 after being released from the hospital several days after the shooting.

Capt. Joseph Murgo, a spokesperson for the East Haven Police Department, said Thursday Gambardella has not been charged in the Jan. 5 incident, but said charges "will be forthcoming." He directed other questions to the Inspector General's Office.  

During a brief court hearing on Thursday, Judge Eugene Calistro Jr. said additional charges might "change" an offer on the table from the state in Gambardella's pending cases.

"If it's rejected, then it will move to a violation of probation hearing," Calistro said.

Thursday's hearing was a continuation from Wednesday, when Gambardella appeared alone in court and claimed his attorney failed to show up.

Emma Rotondo, Gambardella's lawyer, apologized to him and the court on Thursday.

"Unfortunately, my office did not receive notice that this matter was going to be in court until yesterday morning around 9:30," Rotondo said. She said  she and other attorneys at the office were already in court for other matters. She said the law office hadn't heard from Gambardella or his family until Wednesday afternoon.

Rotondo declined to comment further on the case after the hearing. The case was continued to Feb. 28. 

The series of events started around 9 a.m. on Jan. 5 when East Haven police and members of an FBI task force attempted to arrest Gambardella on outstanding warrants, the inspector general's office said. 

Law enforcement blocked Gambardella's car in the parking lot of a Burger King in Branford, but he fled, hitting two police cars and driving onto I-95 southbound, the inspector general's office said. The pursuit ended in Milford where the inspector general said Gambardella crashed at the end of the I-95 ramp for Exit 36.

The inspector general said Gambardella then took off on foot, running through traffic across the southbound and northbound lanes of I-95 with Finoia and East Haven Police Lt. Kevin Klarman following him on foot. 

When the three got to a grassy area on the eastern side of the highway, "Gambardella appeared to reach and turn toward the officers," the inspector general's office said. Finoia then "fired his weapon three times," the office said. "None of the shots struck Gambardella."

Segments of the officers' body-cam footage from the encounter released by the inspector general's office shows Gambardella falling to the ground as the shots rang out. He was then swiftly apprehended. 

On Wednesday, Gambardella said his foot was broken during the arrest, and would require surgery. He appeared in court on crutches Wednesday and Thursday. He told reporters his pelvis was also injured, along with one of his hands that he said was injured by the handcuffs.