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Ryan Champlin (Photo courtesy of the East Haven Police Department )
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An East Haven man apprehended by East Haven police on Jan. 23 is facing multiple charges stemming from an alleged assault on his mother that resulted in her hospitalization, though the arrest was made over the protests of a pastor who reportedly believed police did not have the authority to enter the church.
According to a press release from the East Haven Police Department, East Haven Fire Department personnel notified police that they were on scene of a serious domestic violence assault. The responding officer determined that a 59 year-old female had just been assaulted by her son, later identified as Ryan Champlin, 34, who had fled. The argument reportedly arose because the son doesn’t pay to live at the residence. The victim said she had tried to call 911, but Champlin prevented the call by pushing her to the ground. She reported that she was able to run into her bedroom and lock the door, but Champlin kicked the door down, grabbed her cordless phone, and struck her in the back of the head with it several times, breaking the phone before fleeing. The victim was transported to the hospital with serious but non-life-threatening injuries.
Officers received a tip that the suspect had been dropped off at the Old Stone Church, 251 Main Street, East Haven. Church employees were unsure if Champlin was inside, but invited officers in to look for him, according to the report. Champlin was found hiding in an upstairs office and taken into custody without further incident.
Soon after police took Champlin into custody, Old Stone Church Interim Pastor Rev. Care Goodstal-Spinks (whose identity police did not provide) parked her car so as to block in the police cruiser in which Champlin was held and stated her belief that the officers had no right to arrest someone inside the church, even for felony domestic violence charges.
Officers stated they would not release the suspect. The pastor, described in the report as “extremely irate,” physically attempted to block the police cruiser’s departure, but was prevented by another officer.
“During this, officers exercised excellent discretion and de-escalated the situation,” the report states.
Connecticut General Statutes do not identify churches as sanctuary sites, nor do they contain language preventing officers from pursuing a suspect into a church.
Champlin was charged with assault in the second degree, interfering with an emergency call, disorderly conduct, and criminal mischief in the third degree. He was held on a $25,000 bond and scheduled to appear in court on Wednesday, Jan. 24 at G.A. 23, 121 Elm Street, New Haven.
The East Haven Police Department explained its decision to arrest the felony assault suspect on church property in its report.
“It should be noted that the Old Stone Church runs a day care called the Old Stone Playschool out of the same building as the church,” the release states. “When Champlin entered the church, he had access to the entire interior of the church, including the day care area, which at the time appeared to only be occupied by teachers. We do not believe Champlin came in contact with any children.
“While the East Haven Police Department respects the sanctity of a church, we also owe it to victims of domestic violence to apprehend suspects who commit violent felony assaults. Officers were also cognizant of the fact that children attending day care might have been exposed to a fleeing felony suspect within the interior of the church. We feel that the decision to enter the church was the correct one in this particular situation.”
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