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New Canaan Police release Pickering investigation

Updated 4:38 pm, Friday, June 21, 2013
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A police report released Monday morning about a February incident involving Lt. Fred Pickering paints a picture of aggression, power and race on a canvas of alcohol and accusations.

According to the report, Pickering and his friend Robert Benson were involved in an incident with Joel Anderson at around 11 p.m. on Feb. 23 in the bar area of Tequila Mockingbird on Forest Street. The incident involved shouting and pushing, and the report stated that the shouting between the parties continued on the street outside the restaurant.

Anderson, 24, of New Canaan, accompanied by his mother, Tishie Anderson-Maisonette, filed a complaint at the Police Department at 11:43 p.m. the night of the incident, accusing Pickering of intimidating him, grabbing his neck and shoving him. Anderson also reported that both Pickering and Benson used racial slurs when referring to Anderson, who is black.

Pickering and Anderson have a history, according to the report. Anderson was arrested in March 2011 on a robbery charge that was supervised by Pickering. According to Capt. Leon Krolikowski's report, while Anderson was being held in one of the jail cells he threatened to sexually assault Pickering's wife, an incident Pickering documented at the time. While locked up, Anderson also said to another officer, Geoffrey Lambert, "Pickering is a (expletive) liar."

Pickering also claims in Krolikowski's report that later in 2011, while walking with his son on Main Street, Anderson walked by him, stared at him and called him an "(expletive) pig," which Pickering said he ignored.

According to the incident report filed by Officer Jeffrey Pollock on Feb. 26, and a later investigation and round of interviews conducted by Krolikowski, Anderson stated that he and two friends were drinking beer at the bar at Tequila Mockingbird. He noticed Pickering was there with some friends. The two parties began staring at each other. A short time later, the report stated, as Pickering and his friends walked toward the exit, they passed the bar where Anderson was sitting with his friends. Anderson told police Pickering patted him on his back and told him to "have a good night."

Pickering said he saw trouble brewing between Anderson and Benson and went to diffuse the situation, putting his hand on Anderson's shoulder, but also Benson's back.

A witness from the neighboring table recalled a scene in which Benson and Pickering's group was "drunk and belligerent." He said he saw a tall white man (Benson) who stood over Anderson, who was seated, and said, "why are you here" and "you can't be here." The witness said Pickering, who acted aggressively throughout, came over and put his clenched fists on the table, saying, "I'm a police officer -- be careful."

Pickering said he'd had a beer and a vodka drink prior to arriving at Tequila Mockingbird and one beer at the bar.

Both Anderson and Pickering agreed that Anderson then shrugged Pickering's hand off and said "Don't (expletive) touch me."

Anderson then claims Benson shouted back at him, "what are you gonna do, (racial slur)?" the report stated. Anderson said he tried to stand up, but Pickering told him to "sit the (expletive) down," and pushed him back down onto his bar stool.

At that time, all parties got to their feet, Anderson recalled, and Pickering flipped a table over, spilling some drinks. The report stated "Pickering allegedly then pushed Anderson in the chest area, causing him to fall backwards and into another person."

Pickering said he put his hands up to prevent being assaulted by Anderson, and may have touched him in the process, but that Anderson never left his feet. Further, he said not only was no table flipped over, no drinks were spilled, a claim contrary to every other witness of the event, according to the report.

The witness stated that after Pickering walked away, he returned and shoved Anderson with two hands, which sent him onto the witness' table, he told Krolikowski.

In Krolikowski's report, after the bartender asked the parties to leave, Anderson claimed Pickering mouthed a racial slur at him outside through the window.

Krolikowski did not write in any of the reports whether witnesses heard Anderson call Pickering a "pig."

By all accounts, the incident continued outside the restaurant as well, though there are no witnesses for what was said beyond the two parties involved.

According to Anderson in the Feb. 26 report filed by Sgt. Jason Ferraro, he and his friend walked north on Forest Street, the same direction as Pickering. When they approached Pickering, Benson said they would "die tonight." Anderson said the pair turned around and walked in the opposite direction and Anderson called his mother to come and get him. His mother told Krolikowski that while her son was explaining the situation to her, she could hear yelling.

"Anderson stopped talking and Maisonette could hear someone in the background stating, `I will kill you, walk this way and I will kill you. Do you wanna die tonight?' Mainsonette also heard someone say, `we just want to go home and we have to go that way," the report said. Anderson said Pickering drove off a few minutes later in his Hummer.

According to Pickering's interview with Krolikowski, he heard Benson tell Anderson and his friend something to the effect of, `Don't follow us, go the other way," before he drove his friend home.

Anderson-Maisonette then picked up Anderson and his friend and drove them to the police station, where she said, "I'm sick of this (expletive)," according to the police report.

When Anderson-Maisonette, Anderson and the friend arrived at the police station, she was informed by Lt. David Ferris that if the group filed complaints, the two could be arrested if, in the course of the investigation, it came out that the men had committed any crimes, according to Ferris' police report. Anderson-Maisonette and the pair conferred and decided they still wanted to file complaints.

State Review

On April 12, Krolikowski met with State's Attorney David Cohen, giving him all investigation documents as well as an arrest warrant for Pickering and Benson.

Pickering was charged with third-degree assault and second-degree breach of peace. Benson was charged with third-degree intimidation based on bigotry of bias, second-degree threatening and second-degree breach of peace.

Over the next seven weeks, Krolikowski repeatedly contacted Cohen regarding the status of the review, each time being told it was not yet complete.

On June 3, Krolikowski asked again about the state's investigation, at which time Cohen responded that he'd concluded his work.

"After a thorough review of all the evidence presented, I have concluded that there is insufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that any specific person has committed a crime."

The charges against both men were dropped.

The New Canaan Police Department is conducting an ethics review of Pickering, who has remained on paid administrative leave throughout the period of investigation.

twoods@bcnnew.com; 203-972-4413; @Woods_NCNews