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State settles lawsuit by trooper over demotion

April 1, 2019

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Connecticut officials have agreed to settle a lawsuit brought by a state police sergeant who alleged he was unjustly demoted and suspended over unproven drunken driving accusations.

A federal judge in Hartford was notified of the settlement with Master Sgt. Patrick Torneo last week. Details of the agreement will not be released until it is finalized, Elizabeth Benton, a spokeswoman for the state attorney general’s office, said Monday.

Torneo sought reinstatement to lieutenant and an undisclosed sum in damages in his lawsuit against state police officials. A message seeking comment was left for his attorney, Lewis Chimes.

Chimes wrote in the lawsuit that the internal affairs investigation against Torneo was “truly outrageous.”

Middletown police officers found Torneo in his cruiser on the side of a road in 2013, the morning after he rescued a wounded fellow officer during a shootout in Westbrook. Court records show Middletown police treated the situation as a “medical issue,” and no charges were filed. No details on the issue were given.

In April 2013, Torneo pulled injured state police Detective Scott Wisner from his cruiser in the middle of a shooting involving two robbery suspects in Westbrook. Wisner was shot by one of the suspects after their cars crashed during a chase. Wisner returned fire and wounded the two men. One of the suspects, Jonathan Alvarado, later died, while Wisner and the other suspect survived.

Torneo was promoted to lieutenant in September 2013 and three months later was awarded a medal for bravery for rescuing Wisner.

Anonymous complaints received by state police in 2014 accused state police officials of covering up the fact that Torneo had driven drunk in the hours after the shootout. An internal affairs investigation was launched, resulting in his demotion to master sergeant and a five-day suspension.

A state police spokesman, Sgt. Dwight Washington, said state police cannot comment on the settlement until it is finalized and they have had a chance to review it. It’s not clear when the deal will be completed.

Torneo has been in the news in connection with an unrelated case. He is one of three state troopers accused in a lawsuit of retaliating against a protester at a sobriety checkpoint in West Hartford in 2015 by arresting him on bogus criminal charges. An internal affairs investigation cleared the three troopers of wrongdoing, and they deny the allegations.

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