Monday night, August 12, New Haven Police Captain Anthony Duff was on his way to the hospital where his first grandchild was born. That’s when he saw a man fire a gun at another man.
Duff radioed in that he was pursing the suspect. The next message to come over the radio was Signal 4, “police officer down.”
“That is one of the most heart-wrenching things you can hear an officer give out over the airwaves,” says Anthony Campbell, the assistant chief for the Yale Police Department and former New Haven Police chief.
Campbell says he met Duff the day he came in for an interview with the New Haven Police Department. Duff was assigned to greet the new recruits. After he was hired, Campbell says Duff became a mentor, a role he continued, even working under Campbell, when he was promoted to chief of New Haven’s Police Department two years ago.
“If you ever are going to have an officer witnessing a shooting the officer you’d want to have is Captain Duff,” says Campbell.
Duff was hit three times by the still unidentified suspect’s bullets, including in the chest. The first day Duff was allowed visitors in his hospital room, Campbell was by his bedside.
“What I saw in him is a man who will make a full recovery and will get back to the work of serving the community,” Campbell says. “It’s heroic what he did that night, but I think the true heroism is not just in the two or three minutes that it took for this incident to occur Monday, the true heroism is the 24 years he’s given to this department,” says Campbell.
Campbell describes a dedicated officer beloved by his department and the community he served.
“Anytime there was a need, whether it was clothing, school supplies, turkeys or food for the community around Christmas or Thanksgiving Captain Duff was at the forefront,” he said.
Campbell recalled that Duff taught him and fellow officers to always check the refrigerator on domestic calls, to make sure the family had enough food. He also remembered that Duff always carried a teddy bear or toy in his patrol car, for the children caught in the middle of disputes.
“He took community policing to the level that I think every officer should,” says Campbell. “Making it not simply a mantra or the latest phrase for departments to through around. It’s a lifestyle for him.”
Duff was a regular at the Greek Olive restaurant, where he often planned those community fundraisers.
“He’s here all the time. He’s like someone you say good morning to, he’s a friend that everybody knows,” says manager Anna Antonakis.
Antonakis says news of the shooting was hard to believe.
“That initially itself was shocking, that an officer was shot, but when we saw the picture, all of us almost broke down and cried,” she says.
Besides his own family, perhaps no one has been more affected than those who also wear the badge.
“It does have a chilling effect you know many of us get used to the fact that our job is dangerous, that we put our lives on the line every day, that when we leave home it may be the last time that we get to say goodbye or I love you to our loved ones. That comes with the job. When the stark reality of an officer being shot in your department or your area it definitely does send a chilling effect,” says Campbell.
The suspect who shot Duff and also fatally wounded 46-year-old Troy Clark of West Haven, is still on the loose.
“It’s the priority of the department. It’s on all of our minds, and I can assure that every stone is being turned,” says New Haven Police Chief Otoniel Ryes.
Reyes says investigators have pinpointed a motive, but are not saying what that motive is. They do believe the suspect and victim knew each other and that there is no broad public threat.
The FBI and State’s Attorney’s office are involved in the case. Per protocol when a police officer is involved in a shooting, Duff will be placed on administrative leave during the investigation.
There’s no word on when Duff may return to work. Chief Reyes points out that it’s not just the wounds on the outside that Duff will have to deal with.
“The prognosis is that he’s going to make a full recovery, but it’s a long road. We know beyond the physical injuries there are other injuries to him and to his family that they will be dealing with for years to come,” Reyes says.