Old Saybrook Police Make Second Arrest Related To Firearms Theft From Gun Store

OLD SAYBROOK —Thomas Russo made police officers wait more than an hour before he would talk to them about a gun shop break-in this week during which 16 guns were taken, police said.

When he finally talked, he refused to take full responsibility for the burglary, police said, pointing a finger at a New Haven man known as "CUBA."

Police say they believe Russo, 25, of 79 Fenwood Drive, played a key role in the theft of $7,716 worth of weapons, which they have been working hard to find. They arrested him Wednesday on 16 counts of theft of a firearm and other charges.

Late Friday afternoon, police also arrested Russo's neighbor, Thomas Randall, 26, of 66 Fenwood Drive. They charged him with interfering with the investigation and later with operating a drug factory after a search of his house turned up signs of drug-packaging. He is in custody on $75,000 bail and is scheduled to be arraigned Tuesday, police said.

Half of the guns stolen from the Grouse Perch have been recovered, Middlesex State's Attorney Peter McShane said Friday. In addition, police announced Friday evening that they found three assault rifles — including a Bushmaster AR-15 and a loaded, assault-style shotgun — in a conservation area known as the Grove in the Fenwick section of town. Chief Michael A. Spera said Friday night that police were working with the gun shop owner to determine whether they are from the store.

Earlier Friday, Russo, wearing a New York Yankees shirt, appeared for the second day in a row in Superior Court in Middletown. His latest charge is violation of probation from previous convictions for carrying a pistol without a permit, reckless endangerment and driving while under the influence. Judge Carl Taylor set his bail at $75,000 and scheduled his next court date for Sept. 16.

According to the police report, the store owner opened his shop Tuesday morning and found that a large window had been broken. He was missing 13 handguns and three high-powered rifles, police said.

As officers gathered evidence, they noticed red stains that looked like blood on top of smashed glass, the report said. The owner told officers that a man named Thomas Russo had been in the store with friends trying to sell a shotgun, but that he didn't buy the story. An officer went to the Russo home and saw a BMW with blood-like stains on it, the report said.

An officer knocked on the door and saw Russo inside and heard people running around, but Russo, 25, didn't come out, it said. More officers arrived, and after about an hour, Russo and two friends came out, the report said.

Russo, who had a Band-Aid on his finger, said he didn't want to talk about the burglary and wanted to talk to his lawyer first. The officer ended the conversation and began walking away, but Russo followed him, it said.

He gave police permission to search the BMW, which they did, and his parents consented to a search of the house.

Russo told Det. Sgt. Eugean Heiney that blood on a cloth in the BMW was his, according to the report. When Heiney told him officers would take blood they collected from the shop to be tested, Heiney wrote, Russo "began to twitch and his eyes began darting around."

Police then found a gun that had been stolen from the shop, and Russo was placed under arrest.

Minutes later, he agreed to talk. He said he got a call from a New Haven man whom he knows only as "CUBA." CUBA told him he had broken into the shop, Russo said, and gave Russo guns to hold.

But Russo changed his story, police said, saying that he was with CUBA when the New Haven man broke in but waited outside.

Russo said he cut his thumb on the window's glass and put gloves on, after which CUBA took the gloves. He told police that the man must have wiped the blood on the glass to frame him, the report said.

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