NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) -- Fast action by a New Haven store owner and a fast response by police have landed two men behind bars for a series of robberies.
Edilberto "Eddie" Fontanez fired shots at two suspects holding him up at his market in New Haven's Hill section September 25. He says police officers arrived moments after he hit his silent alarm, and almost as quickly as that a two-month, eight robbery spree was over. There wouldn't be a ninth.
"The guy moved forward to jump over the counter, so then I shoot him twice and he runs out," Edilberto Fontanez said.
He didn't hit the thieves, but he did turn the tables on suspects Brandon Mills and Thomas Norfleet, both 24 and both with criminal pasts. It wasn't long before police had their men.
"Norfleet was on parole for a robbery when he was committing these robberies," Asst. Chief Archie Generoso, New Haven Police Department, said, "and Mills was on probation out of New York for sex offense."
Fontanez says he's had to tangle with armed robbers three times in his forty years at his store, and he'd made up his mind he wasn't going to take a fourth lying down.
"The last person that came to the store with a gun, I told my son, next time somebody comes here I'm going to get him," Fontanez said.
Police say Mills and Norfleet have confessed to all eight holdups, four of which happened at one shop, Sam's. At Walt's package store, clerk Rakeshkumar "Rocky" Patel got shot in the chest, unprovoked he says, and after giving the crooks all the money he had.
"I'm happy because I'm safe," Patel told News 8. "My family's happy. That's all I say."
With their suspects in custody police are sharing plenty of the credit with civilian help, but 18-year veteran Lt. Holly Wasilewski, who helped in the arrests, says she and her peers are feeling a share of the relief as well.
"Fantastic, because (Mills and Norfleet) did truly terrorize the neighborhood for the last couple of months," Lt. Wasilewski said.
Mills and Norfleet each face a long list of charges that police say could net both men multiple 20-year sentences if convicted.
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