Beloved marathoner identified as New Britain hit-and-run victim; lawmakers call for change to juvenile crime law

Hartford

NEW BRITAIN, Conn. (WTNH) — The victim killed in a hit-and-run in New Britain on Tuesday has been identified as marathon runner 53-year-old Henryk Gudelski. The driver, a teenager, has been arrested. Now, state lawmakers are calling for changes to the juvenile crime law.

Gudelski’s fiancée told News 8, Henryk was a highly decorated marathon runner.

RELATED: Teen driver arrested in New Britain fatal hit-and-run crash on East Street, victim identified

New Britain Police have arrested the 17-year-old driver of the stolen car that hit Gudelski. Another teen that is believed to be involved is still on the run.

The energy and spirit of Gudelski are captured in a video showing him spinning around with joy as he crossed the Hartford Marathon finish line in 2019. His fiancée shared the video and photos with News 8’s Jodi Latina.

Alina Jablonski said the family is too distraught to talk on camera: “this is a very difficult time for us.”

New Britain Mayor Erin Stewart has been getting a lot of phone calls from the community.

“It’s tragic, it’s an absolute tragedy. You want to talk about the worst case of wrong place wrong time,” Stewart said.

Stewart says the community is devastated and wants answers. “Everybody’s just in shock. How do you get arrested 13 times and not have any consequences, and then you kill someone?”

Authorities arrested a 17-year-old driver seen in blue shorts on surveillance tape.

Police say his rap sheet includes violent crimes, including robbery with a knife and numerous violations of probation.

Police Chief Chris Chute believes the Juvenile Justice system has failed the community. “This should have never happened.”

The scene on the city’s east side shows the aftermath. A busted chain link fence, a demolished car, and broken glass mark the area on East Street and Belden where the crash ended.

The teens allegedly stole a car and were speeding away from a man from whom they stole a wallet at a local gas station.

RELATED: Community programs are working to help kids build skills for the future, keep them out of trouble

Republicans have pushed for the passage of a bipartisan bill to strengthen the juvenile justice laws. Citing a number of incidents around the state and the frustration over a lack of legal power to punish repeat violent offenders.

The Republican House Minority Leader Vin Candelora said, “Here we are today with this crisis that continues to play out; people are now dying.”

State Rep. Candelora put an amendment to tighten the juvenile laws up for a vote during the regular legislative session.

Republicans got some Democrats to join and vote yes. But it wasn’t enough and the amendment failed.

Candelora says, “This truly is a tragedy not just for the families involved but for the whole state of Connecticut that this legislature, the Democrats were that tone-deaf to this issue.”

The Democratic House Speaker says it’s complex. Adding car thefts are down in the last five years.

RELATED: Officials say car break-in bills in CT is a start, but more needed

However, officials in Naugatuck recently told News 8 they have observed a sharp rise in car thefts during the pandemic.

Speaker Matt Ritter says it’s complex. Ritter adding car thefts are down in the last five years. “The problem is you have a couple hundred kids causing the vast majority of the problem lethality has increased the incidents…the number of cars they are stealing has increased because the opportunities have increased.”

Sources told News 8 the juvenile in the New Britain case will be charged with first-degree assault, but not manslaughter because of limits in the law.

Gudelski completed 40 marathons including ones in Poland, Athens, Stockholm. He was training to run his 41st when he was killed.

Mayor Stewart added, “Henry lost his life and there was something that could’ve been done to prevent that.”

Republicans say they are going to try and use a special rule to call lawmakers back to the Capitol and take care of this issue.

Anyone with information on the New Britain hit-and-run is asked to call an anonymous tip line 860-826-3000.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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