Over the course of a five week period last summer, Tastie Fish published a series of articles on the alleged brutality of the New Haven Police Department.
During the induction ceremony for now acting police chief Anthony Campbell, the alleged victim of the crime(Holly Tucker) crashed the ceremony, and had to be escorted outside while screaming at the top of her lungs.
We then conducted this interview on the steps of city hall shortly after the incident.
— TastieFish (@TastieFish) June 21, 2017
After an extensive investigation, this magazine failed to find sufficent evidence that the arresting officers had acted unlawfully when arresting Tucker.
Video, documents, we tore the story apart.
Several weeks ago, an influential figure in New Haven informed our newsroom that Jennifer McDermott, the officer who had arrested Holly Tucker over a year ago, had been arrested herself for stealing a computer monitor from the BJ’s club in Stratford Connecticut.
A resident of Milford, Officer McDermott was busted August 14th by witnesses, and surveillance footage.
Tastie Fish has conducted an extensive investigation to deterimine why a story so essential to public trust was covered to such little extent, and what exactly took place at the BJ wholesale club in August.
We have published the official police report for your viewing pleasure right here, but will provide a summary for those that would rather consume the story free of effort.
On August 18th, 2017, the BJ’s Wholesale club(in Stratford) contacted the Stratford police to inform them that a theft had occured at the store on August 14th.
Officer Stephen Santoro took the call, and was informed by BJ’s employee Jessica Morin that one of her employees had witnessed a female customer check out at the main exit with a computer monitor that was not on her receipt.
When questioned by the employee as to why she was attempting to leave the store with a computer monitor not found on her receiptt, the suspect stated that “she attempted to return the monitor, but her husband must have purchased it elsewhere”.
That explanation stunk to high heaven according to the report, the employee was uncomfortable with the suspect’s story, but let her pass through anyway.
BJ’s employee Jessica Morin reviewed the surveilance footage after being alerted to the incident, which showed the female suspect enter the store with an empty shopping carriage, head straight for the computer section of the store, and grab a HP 27″ Monitor.
The suspect nabbed some other items as well before hitting the checkout line.
The video shows the suspect scanning all of her items with the exception of the computer monitor, and heading for the exit, the suspect did place the monitor on the scanner, but walked it past the conveyor belt before taking off.
At that point Jessica Morin examined the transaction recepit, which did not include a computer monitor, she also discovered after an inventory of the monitors was completed that a moniter was missing. .
That monitor appeared to be in the suspect’s cart as you can see on the video.
Exclusive: @TastieFish obtained an explosive police report and video footage regarding the arrest of New Haven Police Officer Jennifer McDermott, who attempted to sneak a computer monitor by the main exit of a @BJsWholesale
— TastieFish (@TastieFish) December 29, 2017
The exchange between the employee at the main exit, and Jennifer McDermott was super awakward as it becomes clear that McDermott is making off with an item she did not pay for.
After running a check, the BJ’s membership card used by the suspect belonged to Jennifer McDermott.
Jennifer McDermott is a New Haven Police Officer, and her physical description matches the suspect on the video.
After recieivng the surveillance video, the incident report from BJ’s, and an official receipt from the transaction, Officer Stephen Santoro ran an official check on Jennifer McDermott per the Stratfotd Police database.
He got one hit, and it just so happened to take place the same day the theft at BJ’s did.
Here is where it gets weird.
Officer Santoro discovered that Jennifer McDermott had been involved in a fender bender earlier in the day, and that the incident had been handled by an Officer Gentile of the SPD.
Officer Gentile confirmed that the woman on the video was McDermott, but that when he had dealt with her earlier in the day, her hair was much longer.
After reaching a critical point in his investigation, Officer Santoro spoke with Jennifer McDermott via phone on August 18th, advising her of the allegations against her.
McDermott tells the officer she was not at BJ’s on August 14th, she claimed she was in Enfield, and that her BJ’s card was stolen months earlier at a Home Depot.
Officer Santoro asked McDermott a series of questions to futher confirm her identity, including if she had tatoos on both arms, and if she had recently cut her hair.
McDermott confirmed both inquires, but refused to come in and watch the video with Officer Santoro.
Jennifer McDermott “did not seem interested in dispelling the suspicion of being a suspect of this larceny”
Shortly thereafter, Officer Santoro concluded that he would be filing a warrant for McDermott’s arrest.
On August 21st, Jennifer McDermott, along with her husband Brian McDermott of New Haven, presented themselves at the Stratford Police headquarters to review the video tape.
After watching the footage, McDermott claimed the woman in the video was her, “but that she had been taking medication that affects her behavior sometimes, and does not recall taking the monitor”.
The McDermotts offered to meet with representatives from the BJs and pay full($199) restitution to the company for the incident.
After some consideration, BJ’s refused, opting to pursue criminal charges against McDermott, thus cementing the need for an arrest warrant.
After getting the warrant approved by a judge on September 19th, 2017, the SPD notified McDermott that the department had an active warrant for her arrest.
On September 20th, 2017, McDermott turned herself into police, she was fingerprinted, proccessed, and photographed.
The court issued a bond of $495, and McDermott was released from custody, and ordered to appear in a Bridgeport court on October 16th.
Here was a police officer acting like a professional criminal, allegedly lying about it extensively, and the story barely engendered two paragraphs from some of the most respected news outlets in the state.
That’s ludicrious considering some of the details, including the fact that an active police officer is allegedly under the influence of medication that “affects her behavior”, and clearly obstructs her memory, even when she presumably was caught on camera robbing a wholesale store.
Public trust in law enforcement is essential, it’s also important for citizens to believe in the integrity of concerned news outlets.
The citizens in the Elm city deserve to know if a city cop(that carries weapons) is mentally and emotionally prepared to handle the responsbility of protecting the public, and serving lawful justice.
It would also be nice to know that she is not under the influence of mind altering drugs while is active on the beat.
Which is why we contacted the NHPD with some questions.
Some of the answers we recieved contradicted the statement Officer David Hartman told the media at the time.
Others made sense.
McDermott was off the force for an extended period of time due to injury, which jives with some of the results of our Holly Tucker investigation.
But her official status with the NHPD seems to be a confusing topic for police.
Hartman told the press on October 6th, 2017, that McDermott was a a cop, but not active
“We trust in the legal process and will address any issues once the court case has concluded,” Hartman said in a statement to Eyewitness News on Friday. “Jennifer was neither on duty, active in her role as a police officer and was not acting under the color of law at the time she was arrested.”
Internal Affairs told this magazine a couple days ago that McDermott is indeed a police officer, not a civilian employee as was widely reported.
Considering the details of police report, the alleged conduct of the officer, and the video, New Haven residents will be inevitably curious why this individual remains on the force.
This is about public trust, and public safety.
Police officers are supposed to be a beacon of hope, a symbol of truth and justice, McDermott’s alleged behavior after the crime was committed is counter to that expectation.
First she claims she attempted to return the monitor but her husband must have bought it somewhere else, than McDermott claims she was in Enfield Connecticut the day the crime took place, then she claims her BJ’s card was stolen at a Home Depot, than she claims she is under the influence of medication that affects her memory, and her basic senses.
It just seems like lie after lie after lie.
So she can remember that her BJ’s card was stolen a couple months ago(along with the store) but she cannot remember robbing BJ’s blind a couple days ago?
That does not pass the smell test, neither does the fact that this story went totally unchecked.
When an African American, or a Hispanic American robs a BJ’s, and produces behavior like this in the aftermath, it’s plastered all over the New Haven Register, or the Connecticut Post, they jump on stories like that.
But a clean cut New Haven Police officer pulling an Oceans 11, and being caught red handed?
No, that’s small cuttings, no need to take 15 minutes to investigate the story, and obtain video that is about as damming as it gets while also coming into possession of a police report that is beyond shamless.
There certainly is enough shame to go around on this one, including the attending police officers who blatently gave her a pass on a charge of lying to police, and obstructing justice.
In an email, Kathy Houston(who is the spokesperson for BJ’s) told Tastie Fish that “As a matter of policy, we don’t comment on ongoing investigations”.
Phone calls to Officer David Hartman of the New Haven Police Department were not returned as of the publishing of this report.
Officer McDermott has yet to enter a plea in her case, she is due back in court in the middle of January.
Christian James is the senior investigative reporter for Tastie Fish