Old Saybrook first selectman apologizes to family of man with Down syndrome for ‘hurt that they have endured’

Area residents protest in front of the Old Saybrook Department of Police Services on October 15, 2020 concerning an incident involving the Old Saybrook Police Department and a resident with Down Syndrome.

OLD SAYBROOK — A viral Facebook post alleging Old Saybrook police “aggressively” questioned a man who has Down syndrome sparked a probe and and apology from First Selectman Carl Fortuna, according to a statement he issued Friday.

Rebecca Roy, whose family has a cottage in town, alleged Chief of Police Michael Spera and other officers came to the property Oct. 10 while investigating a stolen street sign and suggested her brother, who has Down syndrome, committed the theft.

The Roys had no involvement in the sign theft, according to Fortuna’s release, which indicates the incident lasted about 30 minutes.

On Monday, as Rebecca Roy’s social media post was garnering thousands of likes and shares, Fortuna and five members of the police department, including Spera, met with the family, Fortuna said.

“The officers explained themselves and, more importantly, listened as the family described how much the actions of the police hurt and scared the family,” his statement said. “For this, I apologized to the family on behalf of the town.”

Spera has not returned multiple phone calls seeking comment on the matter and said he was unavailable to speak with a reporter Tuesday, when he shared a release from a state Down syndrome advocacy group that said police had met with the Roy family.

“The police officers in our town, who are also our first responders, work hard and are committed to service to our community,” Fortuna wrote. “That being said, I completely understand Ms. Roy’s position on this matter and her instinct to protect her brother... With this statement, I would hope that Ms. Roy and her family can accept my apology for the hurt that they have endured.”

Fortuna’s statement said the matter has been thoughtfully considered but should continue to be examined.

After Monday’s meeting, Rebecca Roy issued an update on Facebook.

“The officers involved in the incident apologized to my brother and my family for the way we perceived their actions,” she wrote, adding that the family appreciates their “willingness to have a conversation.”

She was also “relieved to report” that her brother “left the meeting with a stronger sense of security and safety.”

Rebecca Roy could not be reached for comment earlier this week, and her mother, Colleen Roy, declined comment Tuesday. The family has requested privacy.

The New Haven Register submitted a Freedom of Information request Monday for body camera footage of the incident at the Roy cottage as well as any associated complaints. While Spera has acknowledged the request, he had not provided the material as of Friday afternoon.

Connecticut Media Group