Pursuit ends in 1 man's death - WFSB 3 Connecticut

I-Team Investigation

Pursuit ends in 1 man's death

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MERIDEN, CT (WFSB) -

A family was torn apart after a crash claimed the life of their loved one.

Now, months later, they're finding out that crash came after a pursuit through four towns, but it wasn't the police in pursuit.

"We're in pursuit of a fugitive of justice, we're following him on [Interstate] 691 one mile away from Exit 5," Joe Furnari, with Alliance Bail Bonds, said when he called 911 during the chase.

The Eyewitness News I-Team obtained these 911 calls. Furnari, who at the time was a bail bondsmen and co-owner for Alliance Bail Bonds out of Bristol, called police dispatch about the pursuit. 

In the early morning hours of April 10, 2013, bondsmen for Alliance Bail Bonds were trying to take 31-year-old Michael Carlone into custody. Carlone was wanted on five rearrest warrants. The bondsmen told police his bonds totaled about $100,000.

Police say the bondsmen confronted Carlone outside the Blue Plate Cafe in Plainville where his girlfriend worked. She called 911 after they sped off. 

"My boyfriend was picking me up from work, and all of a sudden they bum-rushed the car, almost ran me over," the girlfriend said during the 911 call. "And both took off on a chase." 

Police say from the Blue Plate Cafe, the bondsmen followed Carlone onto Interstate 84 while Furnari called 911.

"So you're chasing a person recklessly on the highway," the 911 dispatcher said.

"We're just following him, sir," Furnari said.

He said they're "just following," but in another call, he gives his driver some instructions. 

"Careful you don't flip this thing, Bobby," Furnari said.

They followed Carlone from I-84 to I-691, off Exit 5 in Meriden and onto West Main Street,  where they called police again.

"We're bail enforcement. We're chasing a fugitive Michael Carlone," Furnari said. "He's in a green Honda Civic."

"OK, are you pursuing a vehicle?" the 911 dispatcher asked.

"Yes, sir," Furnari said. "We're in a Kia Sorento, black."

"OK, well you're going to have to stop pursuing the vehicle first of all," the 911 dispatcher said.

The bondsmen didn't stop and police said the pursuing cars were caught on video by a gas station in Southington. Minutes later, Furnari made another call. 

"There's a man here," Furnari said. "I don't know if he's dead. He didn't negotiate the turn in the road."

"What," the 911 dispatcher said.

"He's hurt. Send an ambulance please," Furnari said. "He's been in a car accident."

Carlone had crashed his car. Police said he was high on cocaine and other drugs during the chase, which was confirmed later by lab tests. He died six days later at Saint Mary's Hospital while police launched an investigation. 

The I-Team uncovered the four warrants, including one for each bondsmen involved. The warrants were drawn up and were intended to charge those men with conspiracy to commit reckless driving and violation of bail bond regulations among others.

In the summary, police said the 20-mile chase through four towns and the reckless action of those men "ultimately contributed to this crash and led to Carlone's death."

Those charges were never filed. The New Britain state's attorney said the prosecutor sat down with Southington investigators several times and finally decided they didn't have enough to pursue charges. 

The I-Team wanted to give the bondsmen the chance to explain exactly what happened that night, but none of them wanted to comment on the case.

The I-Team reached out to the Carlone family, who said they're still trying to meet with the chief state's attorney. 

"No family should ever have to endure the pain and suffering that has become a sixth sense for us," the Carlone family said in a statement to Eyewitness News.

Bail bondsmen do have the authority to track down the suspects, but police told the I-Team they can't do it by driving recklessly. 

"It creates an unnecessary risk," said South Windsor police Chief Matthew Reed. "If this person was so dangerous that you can create that type of risk to take him into custody, then maybe he shouldn't have been out on bond in the first place." 

Reed told the I-Team police departments work with bail bondsmen on a regular basis. There are nearly 500 bail bondsmen in Connecticut. Most of those bail bondsmen are overseen by the insurance department.

That's because they're backed by an insurance company to put up that money to get a suspect out of jail.

Once they do that, the pressure is on the bail bondsmen to make sure that suspect appears back in court when he or she is supposed to.  

"Where police have broad powers over all of us, We have absolute powers over the people we take out," said Schaefer Griffin, of 911 Bail Bonds, LLC. 

Griffin, who is a bail bondsman with more than 1,000 fugitive recoveries, said when a suspect skips out on the bond he promised, he's the one who has to pay up.

"It's us losing our homes and our property if we don't pull the person back in," Griffin said.

With that sort of pressure, Griffin said he knows some agents may cross the common sense line he tries to follow when recovering a suspect.

Griffin said if tracking the suspect puts people in danger as is alleged in the instance of the pursuit of Carlone, it's not worth the money.

"Obviously we're aggressive in our recovery," Griffin said. "But when it comes to the bigger picture of potentially causing an accident or getting someone hurt, that's not something we would do."

Bondsmen have to take a course through the insurance department, pass a background check and get licensed by the state.

Schaeffer said they can carry guns and use handcuffs, but must have the proper gun permits and notify law enforcement before they try to take a suspect into custody. They can push the limits of the law, but they can't break it.  

Reed explains from the bondsmen perspective.

"Once I agree to promise to the court, I put up my good name, my company, my assurety, I put that up to a court and I say I promise this person will appear in court," Reed said. "I'm essentially taking custody of you, which means it's kind of like I have my arm wrapped around you all the time whether you're 10 feet away from me or 10 miles away from me. I need you to be in court and you failed to be in court. I do whatever I need to do to take physical custody of you and march you into court."

Reed said bondsmen must abide by the law and that means they can't speed or break a driving law to get a suspect.

"Pursuits are highly regulated in the law enforcement world, and the general rule is you don't pursue unless there are extraordinary circumstances," Reed said. "It's more the exception than the rule for law enforcement."

The I-Team asked the insurance department if they would take action against the bondsmen. They enforce financial regulations for licensed bondsmen, but refer any criminal complaints to law enforcement.

"If there's not charges, no conviction, there's no reason for us to do anything regardless of what their conduct might have been," said Tony Caporale, counsel for the Connecticut Insurance Department. "And that's an unfortunate fact."

Caporale said that can be frustrating.

The state has no defined code of conduct for bondsmen when it comes to suspect recoveries. Griffin said he and fellow bondsmen would like to see a little more clarity.

"There are some talks of forming new associations just to figure out what is common sense and what isn't and go from there," Griffin said.

Officials with the Connecticut Insurance Department are proposing a bill this legislative session that would require bail bondsmen to take continuing education courses.

That bill is still in the early stages and hasn't been raised yet.

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