Hartford Cop Accused Of Stealing From Department, Providing Items To Man Operating Drug Factory

rbruno@courant.com

A Hartford police sergeant has been charged after he allegedly stole a ballistic vest and mountain bike from the department and provided them to a person who was arrested in March on charges of operating a drug factory. An internal investigation revealed that the officer also used cocaine and alcohol on several occasions while in uniform, police said Tuesday.

Justin Torniero, 34, was charged with first-degree larceny and three counts of second-degree larceny.

In March, multiple law enforcement agencies searched the Farmington home of John Butler looking for illegal narcotics. The stolen police equipment, narcotics and dozens of guns were found at Butler’s home at 14 John Steele Road.

Butler, 52, was arrested March 14 after police found 228 grams, or 8 ounces, of cocaine; 2.8 pounds of marijuana; 1.7 pounds of edible marijuana; 98 Percocet pills; packaging materials; and drug paraphernalia in his home. Officers also found 28 rifles, 29 handguns, ammunition, about $108,840 in cash and $900 in U.S. bonds.

In a subsequent investigation, police also found that Torniero, a 10-year veteran of the department, had used cocaine and alcohol at Butler’s residence.

“Torniero would drive in a Hartford Police Department vehicle to Butler’s residence in Farmington while in uniform to partake in cocaine and alcohol use,” police said.

Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin condemned the officer’s behavior in a statement Tuesday night. “This officer has been suspended since last year, after he was arrested for larceny, and these latest charges stem from the Hartford Police Department’s own internal investigation. The criminal activity he has been accused of is egregious, and it goes without saying that it should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”

Torniero was suspended without pay in December 2017 when he was arrested and accused of routinely using a police vehicle while off duty and without permission. He was charged with sixth-degree larceny, fifth-degree computer crime and using a motor vehicle without permission.

The mayor’s office said Torniero stole the items before his suspension and did not have access to department property while under suspension.

Torniero “repeatedly took a police vehicle, filled it with city of Hartford gas and drove it for extended miles without authorization or permission” while he was out from work on accrued leave, police said in December. He also tampered with a computer modem and automatic vehicle locator inside one of the department’s vehicles.

Torniero was released in December after posting $1,000 bail. He is being held on $175,000 bail and is scheduled to appear in court Wednesday.

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