A Connecticut woman and her 19-year-old daughter have filed a lawsuit alleging an off-duty state police sergeant was intoxicated when he drove his unmarked cruiser through a stop sign and smashed into their car.
Lisa Conroy, of Middlebury, and her daughter, Madison, sued Sgt. John McDonald, state police and two men associated with Black Hog Brewing Thursday in Waterbury Superior Court. They're seeking an undisclosed amount of damages for the injuries they suffered.
Currently there is a motor vehicle, criminal, and internal affairs investigation into what happened in September. Authorities say McDonald was at a trooper retirement party at Black Hog Brewing before the crash.
The lawsuit claims McDonald “… while driving intoxicated, disregarding a stop sign, and driving at an excessive rate of speed … suddenly and without warning collided with [Conroy’s vehicle] …”
The lawsuit says Lisa Conroy and her daughter Madison suffered several injuries including lacerations, contusions, loss of consciousness, and pain throughout their bodies. It adds that they “…[are] unable, and [remain] unable, to participate in and enjoy [their] usual activities.”
The suit also names Thomas Sobocinski and Jason Sobocinski of Black Hog Brewing, alleging that they “maintained an alcohol service policy within the bar in which intoxicated persons would not be refused service.” And that “They served numerous drinks to … McDonald … which caused intoxication, when the defendants knew, or should have known that … McDonald … would operate a motor vehicle upon leaving the … premises.” The lawsuit also says that “They continued to supply alcohol to … McDonald … who lacked the capacity to fully understand the risks associated with intoxication due to his propensity to drink alcohol excessively.”
The Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection says McDonald was off-duty during the crash and refused treatment so they don’t have a blood alcohol content report. State Police say they’re still looking into whether McDonald drank alcohol that night at Black Hog Brewing and that there are a lot of interviews and evidence left to go through.
“We, just as much as the public, want to work through this investigation quickly, but we also want to make sure we’re thorough,” sad Trooper Tyler Weerden.
Weerden says the investigation was transferred from Western District to Central District to ensure a more fair and impartial investigation. He says the criminal aspect has also been transferred from the Waterbury Judicial District to the Middlesex Judicial District. Sgt. McDonald works at Western District Major Crimes.
On Thursday, state police released dashcam video and body cam footage of troopers responding to the crash in September, saying it was in the interest of transparency and accountability.
The body camera worn by a responding state police sergeant is muted several times. A supplemental report by the trooper wearing the camera says while policy requires interaction with the public be recorded, the portions muted are not required to be recorded. But the sergeant writes that because he’s new to the camera’s operation, at times he confused mute and unmute.
In the body camera, you can see a state police lieutenant on scene say “document the crap out of it. Nothing gets changed. Nothing gets...and then as the evidence presents itself to us, that’s what we’re going to work with.” The lieutenant also says “I’m more pissed that he’s put us in this situation. That’s what I’m pissed off about. That’s it..” and then the conversation is muted by the trooper wearing the body camera.
At another point, the lieutenant asks the trooper “Are you recording?” The trooper tells him, “I’m recording but the mic is off, so they’re coming this way, he didn’t stop at the stop sign, keeps going, pushing them into the woods.”
In one instance you see the camera muted and then covered by a hand for about 15 seconds.
A message seeking comment was left for McDonald, Black Hog Brewing, Thomas Sobocinski, Jason Sobocinski, and the attorney for the plaintiffs, Lisa and Madison Conroy.
The State Police Union said they do not typically comment on pending investigations or lawsuits.