EAST HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) — Tensions escalated in East Haven Monday as police and fire crews tried to break up a large gathering and extinguish an illegal bonfire.
Police said officers were dispatched to the backyard of a home on Bradford Avenue to assist the East Haven Fire Department with a large crowd burning a large bonfire.
One neighbor that reported the incident to dispatch over the phone described the bonfire to be “about a 7-foot fire…and they’re throwing liquor bottles into it.”
Police said the crowd threw ice and snow at the firefighters as they tried to put out the bonfire.
Upon arrival, police spoke to 56-year-old Glen Degray of East Haven. During that time, the crowd started to throw snow, ice and yell at the officers. A chunk of ice even struck one of the police cruisers. While speaking to officers, Degray threatened to start a riot if the police didn’t leave, police said.
Branford police, Connecticut State Police, and New Haven police were called to assist as, according to police, the crowd grew increasingly hostile.
Police said 33-year-old Michael Ciarleglio of Wallingford approached officers from behind and lunged at one of them, pushing him out of the way to lunge at another officer. Police said the crowd continued to throw items at police as they took Ciarlegio into custody.
At one point, an East Haven officer was struck in the head with a heavy backpack but was not injured by it. Officers ultimately had to deploy pepper spray to keep the crowd back while making the arrest.
Degray was arrested and charged with inciting a riot and breach of peace. Ciarleglio was arrested and charged with breach of peace and interfering with an officer.
Both were released on a $2,500 bond and are scheduled to appear in court on April 12.
Now, there is body camera footage of the incident. Police are working to piece this event together. News 8 did reach out to some of the people who were there. They said they got together around the bonfire to mourn the loss of their friend. They were emotional and never wanted to start a riot.