The police chief in New Haven, Conn., expressed relief Thursday that a homicide suspect who had been on the run for more than two months was shot and killed during a gunbattle with Virginia State Police on Wednesday.
At a news conference Thursday, Chief Anthony Campbell said that an assistant New Haven police chief called him about 10:15 a.m. Wednesday and told him that a man fitting the description of Tramaine Marquese Poole had been killed in Wednesday’s shootout during a pursuit in Sussex County. Poole was wanted in New Haven in the shootings of two women, one of whom was slain in front of her two young children.
“I breathed a sigh of relief because justice had been served,” Campbell recalled.
But Campbell said he was sorry the shootout came at such a high cost to the Virginia State Police. A narcotics detection dog named Vader was fatally wounded by gunfire.
“This is a tragedy for the Virginia state troopers and for law enforcement in general,” Campbell said.
“Our thoughts and prayers go out to their organization and particularly the handler of canine Vader,” he said, adding that the dog’s handler was almost shot by Poole.
Campbell said he will be sending personnel to attend the funeral for Vader, a 2-year-old Belgian Malinois. Virginia State Police officials said they are working on arrangements for a memorial service and thanked New Haven police for their assistance and support during the investigation.
“Our canine program is essential in so much of what we do as a department to achieve our public safety mission,” Col. Gary T. Settle, superintendent of the Virginia State Police, said in a statement.
“We are all deeply saddened by the loss of Vader and are forever grateful for his sacrifice and selfless service to the state police and the Commonwealth. For our canine handlers, their dogs are more than just a partner on the job. They are their protectors, their constant companion and confidant on the road. Vader was family.”
A blue-and-gray K-9 vehicle has been placed in front of the agency’s headquarters on Midlothian Turnpike to honor Vader.
Authorities in Virginia confirmed Thursday that Poole was the man who was shot and killed in Sussex. New Haven’s chief had dispatched detectives to Virginia on Wednesday after hearing about the shootout.
Poole was accused of shooting his 36-year-old wife, who called police May 7 while she was being driven to a hospital and said her husband had shot her. She survived.
Poole also was suspected in the death of a woman identified in news reports as Tyekqua Nesbitt. The 28-year-old Nesbitt was found May 31 after she had been shot in her car in a New Haven intersection. Her two children, ages 6 and 11, also were in the car at the time of the shooting.
Her twin sister, Tashauna Nesbitt, attended the New Haven Police Department’s news conference along with other relatives.
“From day one, I promised my sister that justice will be served and I got that justice yesterday,” Tashauna Nesbitt said.
“Even though he’s gone, it still does not bring 100 percent peace to me,” she said. “Her soul is at rest, but we’re still hurting.”
Wednesday’s police pursuit in Sussex began about 8:20 a.m. after a Virginia state trooper traveling north on Interstate 95 spotted a car that had been reported stolen from Connecticut, said Corinne Geller, a state police spokeswoman.
The trooper activated his lights and siren to stop the car, but its driver refused to pull over and sped away, Geller said.
A pursuit began north on I-95 and someone in the fleeing car started shooting at the trooper’s vehicle. Sporadic gunfire continued to come from the car as it took exit 24 in Sussex.
As the car approached the intersection of Loco School Road and Bell Road, east of the interstate, the state police “positioned themselves to stop the stolen vehicle,” Geller said.
Someone continued firing at the state police and one of the bullets pierced the K-9 trooper’s back passenger window and struck Vader in a back-seat compartment.
Once the stolen car was stopped, Geller said, “state troopers engaged with the suspect and shots were fired.”
State police said the driver of the stolen car, Poole, was shot and died at the scene.
Authorities said a woman who was a passenger in the car was taken to a hospital for treatment of minor injuries, but they did not say what type of injuries they were. She has not been charged in Wednesday’s incident.
Geller said three state troopers have been placed on administrative leave, which is department policy in cases of officer-involved shootings.